HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Now Fiacc abode at Domnach Fiacc in the southwestern corner of Wicklow, ‘until three score men of his community had fallen beside him’—had died and were buried there. The community was, no doubt, a large one. Fiacc was a great bishop; but he was also a poet and a scholar of the royal blood of Leinster, so that his school must have attracted a large number of monks and clerics from all parts of the province. We cannot exactly ascertain how long he remained at the foot of the Wicklow Hills, but his stay there must have been considerable if he saw fifty or his community buried in the cemetery around his church.

Then an angel came to him, and said—“To the west of the river (Barrow) in Cuil Maige (the Corner of the Plain) will be the place of thy resurrection. The place in which they shall find the boar, let it be there they shall put the refectory (of the monastery), and the spot in which they will find the doe, let it be there they shall put their church.” Fiacc knew well where Cuil Maige was beyond the river to the west, for it once belonged to his own royal race of the Hy Bairrche before King Crimthann had driven them far away even to the North of Ireland; but he was afraid to go there without the sanction of the king, and, as Patrick had placed him where he was, he said he would not leave it—even at an angel’s bidding—without the sanction and authority of Patrick. In this Fiacc was quite right; he could not carve out a new diocese for himself, or even establish a new cathedral church, without the sanction of Patrick, who had given him his Orders and his mission.

Patrick, hearing this, went to Fiacc, and marked out for him with his own hands the site of his new church and See beyond the Barrow. ‘He consecrated it, and put his meeting-house there;’ that is, he made it the cathedral church of Fiacc for the future. Crimthann, at the request of Patrick, had made a grant of the place to himself, for it was Patrick who had baptised Crimthann, and he had thus a special claim on the king’s gratitude and obedience, and it was there in Sletty, we are told, that Crimthann was buried after he had been slain by his own grandson Eochaid Guinech, in revenge for the expulsion of the Hy Bairrche from their native principality in North Carlow and South Kildare on both sides of the Barrow. This shows that Fiacc, at least, had no sympathy with the parricide, else he would not have given a place in his church to the corpse of the king, who had been the unrelenting foe of all his family. It was fitting, too, that the king should be buried by Fiacc, at Sletty, for it was to Crimthann he owed the place of both his churches, although, in the case of Sletty particularly, it is expressly stated that it was to Patrick, not to Fiacc, the king had given it.

In a beautiful meadow on the right bank of the Barrow, almost directly opposite the residence of the present Bishop of Kildare, which is on the left bank—in that quiet ‘corner’ of the great plain of the Barrow, under the shadow of the hills of Slieve Margy, Fiacc spent the remaining years of his life in retirement and prayer. He was then an old man, broken down by years and labours, but he did not on that account intermit the journeys necessary for the government of his great diocese of South Leinster. It would seem from the curious story told in the Book of Armagh that even then he performed his visitations mostly on foot, and also that he was suffering from some physical infirmity which made his journeys very toilsome for him.

Bishop Sechnall (of Dunshaughlin), hearing of Fiacc’s sore infirmity and difficult journeyings, went to his uncle at Armagh, and said to Patrick, “it were better for you to give your chariot to Fiacc, for he wants it more than you do.” “I did not know that,” said Patrick, “let him have it.” So Patrick sent the chariot and horses without a driver, we are told, all the way from Armagh to Sletty. The wise animals, however, knew well where to stop in friendly quarters. On the first day they went to Dunshaughlin, where the saint of that church took good care of them, and allowed them three days to rest and refresh themselves. Then they travelled still south to Manchan, who kept them also for three nights, and thence they went to Sletty. But the Tripartite gives fuller details of this marvellous journey, for it states that on the first day they went to the hermitage of St. Mochta, near the village of Louth; next day they went to Dunshaughlin; thence to Killashee, where the friendly St. Auxilius took good care of them. From Killashee they went to Kilmonach, which appears to be the church of Manchan, in South Kildare, and thence to Sletty. The story is useful as showing the stages that in all probability St. Patrick himself made on his journey southward to mark out the site of Sletty church and consecrate it, and it was on that occasion, we are told, that Sechnall suggested to his uncle Patrick to give his chariot to Fiacc. But Patrick could not be expected to do so until he himself returned to Armagh, and then he sent back the team by the same road, and they returned of their own accord to Sletty.

Now Fiacc, notwithstanding his lameness, at first refused the gift. He was unwilling to deprive Patrick of his own chariot and horses. The steeds, however, showed they meant to stay, for they kept going round the church of Fiacc until the angel said to him, “Patrick has sent them to thee because he has heard of thy infirmity.” Then, and then only, Fiacc consented to keep them.

But Sechnall’s connection with this story can hardly be reconciled with Patrician chronology. For Sechnall died, according to one account, in 448, being ‘the first bishop who went under the sod in Erin.’ Another account dates his death at 458, but in either case he must have been gone long before Fiacc came to Sletty, if the latter remained long enough east of the Barrow to see three score of his community fall around him. Perhaps the tale really had its origin, not at Sletty, but at Domnach Fiacc. Still the reference to Armagh points to a date after the death of St. Sechnall, for although Sechnall is said to have been coadjutor and destined successor of Patrick for thirteen years, these years must be dated from 434 or 435, when perhaps Patrick placed him at Dunshaughlin. He was never a prelate resident in Armagh in any capacity.

Fiacc in his old age lived a life of extraordinary austerity. At the beginning of Lent he usually left his monastery unattended, taking with him only five barley loaves, and these strewn with ashes. He forbade any of his monks to follow him, but he was seen to go to the hills to the north-west of Sletty, a wild and solitary district. In one of these, called Drum Coblai, he had a cave which sheltered him. The hill itself has been indentified with the Doon of Clophook, which is just seven miles to the north-west of Sletty. Its eastern slope ‘which is steep and beetling’ rises abruptly to the height of 150 feet; at its base is the cave thirty-six feet deep by twelve in width. Close at hand there was an ancient church and cemetery, doubtless founded there in honour of the saint. Local tradition still remembers him; but as he was not seen coming or going to his church at Sletty, the wise people came to the conclusion that he had an underground passage through the mountains all the way to his own church. The fame of his sanctity and austerities still clings like the mists of morning to the mountain sides of Slieve Margy, where he spent his last and holiest days. The poet-saint sleeps amid many miracles with kindred dust in his own church of Sletty, within view of the spires of Carlow. An ancient stone cross still standing is said to mark the spot on the right bank of the river—almost opposite the residence of his successor on its left bank—where his holy relics rest. He was one of the earliest of our native prelates, he led an austere and humble life, he was deeply attached to the person and to the memory of his beloved master St. Patrick, and his influence has been felt for many ages in all the churches of Leinster. His poetic Life of St. Patrick, to which we have already referred, is beyond doubt an authentic poem; and if so it is the earliest and most authentic of all the Lives of the Saint. In any case it is an invaluable monument of the history, the language, and the learning of the ancient Church of Ireland.

Fiacc when ordained had one son called Fiachra, who is said to have succeeded his father in the government of the church of Sletty. He had a church also, doubtless before his father’s death, at a place called Cluain Fiachra, but the locality is uncertain. It may have been the old, church which has given title to the parish of Kilferagh two miles south of Kilkenny, for the son of so great and holy a father would have little difficulty in getting the site of a church from any of the neighbouring chieftains.

One of Fiacc’s successors in Sletty, as we have already stated, was Bishop Aedh who died in 696, according to the Chronicon Scotorum. The Book of Armagh tells us that this Bishop Aedh of Sletty went to Armagh and brought a bequest to Segene of Armagh. Segene in his turn gave an offering to Aedh, and the latter ‘gave that offering and his kin, and his church to Patrick for ever.’ ‘Aedh left his bequest with Conchad, and Conchad went to Armagh, and Fland Feblae gave his church to him (Conchad) and he took himself as abbot.’

This is a very curious passage—one of the last in the Additions to Tirechan’s Collections. Segene was Comarb of Patrick in Armagh, and died there in 684. His immediate successor was Forannen for one year. He was succeeded by Fland Feblae, who ruled for twenty years, dying in 702. It appears, then, that when Conchad went to Armagh, bearing the bequest of Aedh of Sletty with him, which was doubtless some formal acknowledgment of the primacy of Armagh, made, perhaps, by will, Flann was about to be appointed Primate. So he gave his own church, which he then held, to the Leinster saint, and the latter accepted it, making formal recognition of Flann as his abbot, or ecclesiastical superior, both in Leinster and Ulster. This note must have been added by Tirechan, perhaps after the death of Bishop Aedh. It is valuable for this reason, that it seems to be the only formal recognition of the primacy of Armagh which was ever made by any of the Leinster prelates. It is singular, too, that although we have accounts of the visitation of the other provinces by the Primate, and of the dues paid to him in recognition of his primacy, we have no account of any visitation of Leinster made by the Primates of Armagh, although St. Patrick founded so many churches in that province.






This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Attribution: Sicarr




Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com