Saint Senan Statue
Image by Fergal of Claddagh
This weekend marks the bapism of my new nephew and he is to be called Senan
PAIDIR NAOMH SHEANÁIN
A Sheanáin, a bheanhín bhéilghlic
An tAthar Uasal a luadh gach éinne ort
Faigh dúinne foighne go dearach
A chloífidh cathú is fadchuma péine
Agus guímís, le Seanán sográch maorga
An tAthair, an Mac is an Naomhsprid
Go raibh síochán i gcrích Fáil is faoiseamh
Agus leas na tire i gcroí gach éinne
PRAYER TO SAINT SENAN
O Senan, the wise-spoken, born of woman
The Noble Father as people call you
Grant us patience in our outlook
That will expel strife and long lingering pain
And pray with wise Senan
To the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit
That there will be peace in the fields of Ireland and prosperity
And the good of the country in the heart of every person
THE LIFE OF SAINT SENAN, SON OF GERRGENN
(Adapted & edited from the Book of Lismore)
SAINT PATRICK FORETELLS THE BIRTH OF SENAN
Now the chief prophet and the chief apostle whom God sent to preach to the men of Ireland, even Saint Patrick, prophesied Senan’s birth. For when Patrick was preaching to the Hui-Figeinti and baptizing them in Domhnach Mór of Cinel Diue, the Corco-Baiscinn came with their king, even Bole, son of Dec in a great sea-fleet over Limerick from the north to Patrick, and they besought Patrick to preach to them on that day and to baptize them at once. Patrick told them to wait till the morning, for on that day he was weary.
Said the Corco-Baiscinn to Patrick: “We cannot, for our district is empty after us without warriors protecting it, and our fleet has no one to guard it, and we must needs hasten back to our district.”
Thereafter Patrick went in his chariot, so that everyone might see him, and that they might hear from him his voice and the preaching of God’s word by him. And then they believed in God and in Patrick. So Patrick repeats the order of Baptism to them on the river, which was near them, and all the hosts are baptized therein. And they gave great alms to Patrick. Patrick blesses them, and said that there would always be abundance of treasures and wealth in the district of Baiscenn. The Corco-Baiscinn entreated Patrick to go with them to bless their district and to baptize their women, and their children and their slaves, whom they had left behind.
Patrick said to them: “I have no leisure to go with you, and to move my household over this river yonder.”
The Corco-Baiscinn said: “We have!” say they, a great fleet to carry you over the sea; and we will take you over it, with all your servants dry- footed, and we will bring you back again.
Patrick again refused to go with them: “I cannot!” said he, “leave the district in which I am, until the consecration and blessing of them all shall end!”
And Patrick gave a blessing to the Corco-Baiscinn, and left upon them excellence of shipping. So of that Patrick sang this stave:
I will not go
To Corco-Baiscinn, no falsehood,
Though there be no sword on their left side,
Nothing more will be taken from them.
Patrick said to the Corco-Baiscinn: “Is there a place near us, whence your district will be clear to me, so that I myself may descry it from my seat, and may bless it from that spot?”
“There is forsooth!” say they, “the hill there!” that is Findine.
Patrick then went with them to the top of Findine, and said to them: “Is this your district to the north of Limerick, as far as the ocean in the west?”
“It is!” say they.
“Does your territory,” said Patrick, reach the mountain there in the north? even Sliab Ellbe, in the district of Corcomruad in Ninnus?”
“It reaches not!” say they.
“ It shall reach before the Judgment!” said Patrick. “Does your territory reach that mountain there in the east?” that is, Echtge in the territory of Hui Desa.
“It reaches not!” say they.
“It shall reach after a long while!” said Patrick.
Then Patrick blessed Corco-Baiscinn, and said to them: “You need me not to go with you into your country, for you have a child in a woman’s womb, and unto him your country had been given by God. After him shall you be, and him shall you serve, and . . . this race of the Hui Figennte. It is he that will be a Patrick to you, and great will be the honour of the child that will be born to you. Happy is he who shall be in his keeping. And the island there in the west, in front of the sea!” that is Inis Cathaigh, “is there any dwelling in it?” said Patrick.
“There is none!” say they, “for there is a terrible monster therein named Cathach, who does not allow it to be inhabited!”
“Marvellous!” said Patrick, “is the diadem of dignity, and the precious stone, and the venerable servant specially lovable to God and to men, even the child that will be born with you. For it is for his sake that the soil of yon island is preserved in virginity, for it is there that his resurrection will be, and the resurrection of a great host of saints along with him!”
Then said Patrick, prophesying Senan’s birth:
“A man-child will be born in the west,
in the island over the ocean.
The Corco Baiscinn will be under his hand,
Men and children and women.
He will be splendid, noble, dignified,
With God and with men.
Happy the folk and the church
That will be under that child’s protection!
Renowned and revered will that child be!
for he will bring to them peace with abundance of every good thing,
and banishment of every unlawful disease,
if they do the will of that child,
with tithes, and first-fruits and alms to God and to Senan.
But woe to his monks who shall not do that child’s will,
for God will then inflict heavy vengeances upon them,
so that there shall be ruin on their men and on their cattle.
And corn and milk and every produce shall then be taken away from them,
so that they shall abide in famine and ruin,
and every one will sell his son and his daughter in far-off territories that they may be fed,
unless they are obedient to Senan.
Wise and dignified will their children be in the present world if they are obedient to him!”
When Patrick had uttered these words, foretelling Senan’s birth, and when he had blessed the district of Corco-Baiscinn, he sent an archpresbyter and a deacon of the Romans, who were along with him Maculatus and Latius were their names along with the Corco-Baiscinn, to baptize them. And on the night that Maculatus and Latius came to Patrick, that is the time that they preached the faith and belief of Christ, and celebrated baptism and communion in the district of Corco-Baiscinn. Then did those saints choose a church for themselves, and a place for their resurrection, beside the harbour of Inis-Cathaig northwards over against the Graveyard of God’s Angel. For they knew that in the Graveyard of the Angel, in Inis-Cathaig, Senan’s resurrection would take place, and they desired that their resurrection should be near Senan’s resurrection, so that they might go along with Senan to the great assembly of Doom.
THE INFANCY OF SENAN
It was not long afterwards when there was a great gathering of the Corco-Baiscinn in one place. So a married couple came to the assembly. As they reached the assembly the wizard who was at the meeting arose before them. When everyone saw that, the whole assembly rose up before them, for great was the honour that they had for the wizard at that time.
Then the assembly laughed at the wizard, and said to him, “It seems to us good,” say they, “Gerrgenn, the peasant, and his wife have come to you, for whom you make your uprising.”
Said the wizard, “It is not to a peasant that I make uprising, but it is to the child that is in the womb of the woman there, for the Corco-Baiscinn will all arise before him. Him will they serve, it is he who will be their prince forever!”
Now when the time came for the birth of that child, even Senan, his mother tarries alone in her garden, in autumn. An angel of God came to help her, so that the bringing forth of her son should not be difficult; and the angel blessed the child that was there born. The stake of rowan that was in her hand when she was bringing forth her son took the earth, and burst at once into flower and leaf; and still that tree remains.
Not long after the birth of this boy, his mother went for water having the child in her bosom. Then the mother tarried, stripping the blackberries from the brake that was near the well, for Senan was born at the beginning of autumn. So the aforesaid child said to his mother out of her bosom: “Stay from that, O mother, for that is refection before the proper hour!”
At Magh Lacha, then, at first were the dwelling and farm of Senan’s parents before Senan was born. They had another farm at Tracht Termainn. Now there is a long space between these two farms; so when Senan’s parents desired to make a removal, Senan would go a day or two days before them to make a house and sheds and farmyard and every needment besides, which they required to be ready before them. Now Senan used to do this for love of helping everyone who needed it, and he used to have a new house ready for his family.
Once upon a time his mother was angry with him about that matter, and she said this to him: “O son of clan and kindred!” said she, “your profit to us is small!”
“O mother,” said he, “be at rest, and you shall have what is needful!”
“That will arise to us!” said the mother.
“Verily it will arise!” said Senan.
When they were saying these words, they beheld coming towards them in the air the sheds and the farmyards, the ties and all the needments which they required, and which they had left in the place from whence they came. And these things were laid down before them in the place in which it seemed right to them to settle. So God’s name and Senan’s were magnified by that miracle.
Once, then, the Corco-Baiscinn went on a hosting into Corcomruad in Ninnus. Now the violent force of the prince took Senan into that territory. When the hosts reached the territory of Corcomruad, they begin ravaging the territory. But this is what Senan did. He enters a barn of corn that was near him, and there he sleeps while the hosts were ravaging the country. The hosts turned to their own country after Corcomruad had been ravaged by them. Senan is left in the barn asleep where he was. So when everyone in the district came after the host had gone back to their own country, the barn in which Senan lay seemed thus, as a tower of fire flaming. When that was seen, a great multitude came to rescue him. When they came near to the barn in which Senan lay, they perceived that he was safe from the fire. Some of them went into the barn and beheld the youth asleep. Some of them proceeded to slay him at once.
“Stay,” said the good man in the barn; “mayhap it is a friend or kinsman of ours that is there and it is he that has saved the barn.”
They asked whence he was. Senan said that he was one of the host which had ravaged that country, and that he had neither friend nor kinsman in the country. So when they perceived that he was a man with the grace of God, they protected him and dismissed him from out of the district all unhurt.
He went to a certain house of a worthy man in the territory of the tribes, to ask for a drink, for he was weary and thirsty with travelling after the host. Now a feast was ready in that house for the king of the territory. Senan was refused, and he went out of the house without food or drink. Straightway then came the king to the place to consume the banquet after Senan had departed. Now when he was told that the food and the ale were set forth, thus was it found: with the water foul and the food putrid. The host marvelled at that deed.
Said the king: “Did any one go from you after being refused food or ale?”
“No one has gone!” say they, “except one lad of the folk of the plundering party, who came here to ask for a drink, and none was given him.”
Said the king: “Let someone go after that man, for he is one with grace of God!”
They went after Senan, and he was brought to the house, and he blessed the food and the ale, and their proper flavour went to them; and all who saw that miracle marvelled.
On another day Senan went with his father’s oxen out of Irrus in the west to bring them eastward to Magh Lacha; and he saw the sea full in before him. Now night was then near, so he went to Dun Mechair, which was at hand, to ask for a guest-house. Now Mechar was not in his fort on that night, and in his absence his household refused Senan. So Senan went back to the sea to await the ebb, and there was no other house near him to which he might then go. As his oxen went before him, on the shore of the sea, he saw the sea-strand before him. Then he drives his oxen over the strand. Then as Senan lifted his feet up over high-water-mark on the land, he heard the wave behind him striking against his heels.
His mind changes then, and this he said, “Sufficient for me is the length of time that I have been at this layman’s work.”
Then he breaks the spear that was in his hand, and makes a cross thereof, and sets it into the ground, and thrice he prostrates himself by it to God. Then a troop came, and that night destroyed Mechar’s fortress, and they slew his son, and his wife was carried off in the plunder. And the fortress has not been inhabited from that to this, and this will never be done.
SENAN STUDIES UNDER NOTAL
So Senan went and left his oxen with his father, and goes afterwards and receives tonsure from Cassidan who had a church in the district of Irrus. Of the Ciarraige Cuirchi was this Cassidan. Then Senan reads his psalms and his ecclesiastical discipline with Cassidan.
Then to read Senan went to Notal, to Cell Manach Droichit in the district of Ossory. Now this was the rule at the school. Each man of the school used to go, on the day that it would fall to him, to herd the calves of the church. Now on the day that it was Senan’s turn to go and herd the calves, when he was driving his calves before him on this side, the cows would come after them, and when he was driving the cows on the other side, the calves would come after them. This is the plan that Senan carried out against this. He made the mark of his staff between the cows and the calves and over the field in which they were, and neither of them ventured to go to the other across that mark; and in that wise Senan acted every day that it fell to him to herd the calves. Then Senan used to go and do his reading until the hour came for driving the cows to their milking-yard.
When Senan heard the saying of Christ to his apostles, if any one would serve me he must follow me, he took in hand to visit the mill. Now that year was a year of dearth and great famine, and there were two robbers in the district attacking every one.
“We will go!” said one of them, “to the mill of Cell Manach; for there is only one man there every night grinding corn, and we will slay that man, and bring the corn home to us!”
Then they went till they were before the mill. They look through the hole of the door, and they saw two in the mill, one of the twain reading and the other attending to the mill.
Then they said to one another: “What shall we do? Shall we attack the men? We will not attack them!” say they; “for the man who is grinding is the owner of the corn which he grinds, and they have not the same household; and he will go to his house as soon as his grinding comes to an end; and we will go after him, and slay him, and carry off his corn and his raiment, and then we will go to the miller and slay him, and carry off his corn from him.”
Then they stayed until the grinding ended, and the youth who had been grinding the corn in the mill ceased. Then Senan closed his book and slept. His companion was without sleep. The robbers stayed before the mill till morning.
Now when the morning came Senan opens the mill. The robbers come straightway to him into the mill and say to him: “Who was with you whilst you were reading and sleeping?”
“Marvel not!” said Senan, “though it were He of whom it was said, for He sleeps not nor slumbers, Israel’s guard!”
“ Who is He? say they.
“He is at hand!” said Senan, “for the Lord is close to those whom he loves!”
The robbers made repentance, and went into union with Notal, and afterwards continued in his company so long as they remained alive. And it is they themselves that told that story.
On a certain night Senan went to the cook to ask a candle which he needed for grinding the corn.
“I have no dipped candles with me!” said the cook, “save one candle; and take it with you just now, and candles will be given to you, provided they are dipped!”
Senan went forth to his mill having his single candle. Then the mind of the cook reflected that his week was complete. Then said the cook: “It seems strange to us that the miller does not come to ask for candles, and he grinding every night!”
So he went at nightfall to find out how Senan used to grind every night. And he looks through the hole of the door, and he saw the candlestick by Senan, and the mill grinding alone, and him doing his reading. Then the cook went thence to his house. He came again on the morrow at nocturne to know how things were going on in the mill, and he saw the same candle on its candlestick just as it had been at nightfall. Then the cook went that time also to his house, and came again and saw likewise. With that the grinding ended, and the miller departs alone, and the candle is given to the cook. Howbeit it seemed certain to the cook that the very candle which had been given by him remained with Senan after being consumed on every night to a week’s end, and it was not diminished. Then the cook goes and tells that to Notal
“A son of grace unto God!” said Notal, “is the man of whom those tidings are told. He will constrain a household unto God. Many miracles and marvels will God perform for him. It is proper to be cautious about him, for woe will be to him who shall act against his will, and happy is he who shall be obedient to him!
Senan went one day with his tutor Notal on a journey to Cell Mór Arad to meet them, and the woman said to them: “For the sake of the Lord whom you adore, O clerics, bring me my dead son to life!”
“Alas for you, what you say, O lady!” said Notal: “God, and not man, haS power to do that deed!”
“For sake of lovingness and mercy,” said the lady, “entreat that Lord for me to bring me my only son to life”
And the boy was then carried into Notal’s presence.
“Do not bring the boy hither!” said Notal, “but take him to Senan!”
“O Sir!” said Senan, “what you say is not fair!”
“Verily it is fair!” said Notal; “for unto you God has granted to bring the boy to life; and take the boy under your protection, for this is permitted unto you.”
Senan dared not resist Notal his tutor. So he takes the boy under his protection, and clasps him to his heart, and makes for him fervent prayers together with tears. It was not long after that they heard the boy talking under Senan’s keeping, and Senan gave the child alive to Notal. Notal gave him into his mother’s hand. God’s name, and Notal’s and Senan’s were magnified by this miracle. Then the clerics went to their own church, when they had completed the work for which they had come.
So Senan’s fame spread abroad throughout the territories on every side, because of the greatness of the miracles and the marvels which God was working for him. The tribes and the kindreds used to come from every point unto him. Some of them with alms and offerings, others to seek alms, others to seek their cure from diseases, some to obtain his spiritual direction, some to bring about union with him and to ask him to take up a place before them. When Notal perceived that he said to Senan: “My dear brother, it is time for you to go and take up a place before the people which is choosing you!”
Then said Senan to Notal: “O father Notal, what you say is not right; for that is not what I have intended, but to be in monkdom with you continually!”
Said Notal: “Not so shall it be; but go you and take up a place before the people which are awaiting you!”
“O chosen father!” said Senan, “whither shall I go, and in what stead shall I take my place?”
Said Notal: “My dear son, He who is choosing you, even God, will manifest to you the place which you shall take!”
SENAN LEAVES FOR ENNISCORTHY
Thereafter Senan went on his way, by the counsel of his tutor Notal; and Notal gave him his blessing, and Senan sets up in Inniscorthy beside the Slaney in the province of Hui Censelaig. Then he and Maedhoc of Ferns make a union. Maedhoc bequeaths his place and his crozier after him to Senan, and Senan takes the abbacy of Ferns after Maedhoc.
Senan goes from his abbacy to Rome. Then he goes from Rome to Tours, to commune with Martin. Then was Martin writing a gospel before him. So Senan said: I should deem it wonderful if yonder hands which I see writing would give me the Sacrifice on the day of my decease. They shall indeed!” said Martin; and then they, even Senan and Martin, make their union, and Martin gives to Senan, in token of their union, the gospel which he wrote before him. This is to-day called Senan’s Gospel.
Thereafter Senan went towards Ireland, and he came to Cell Muine unto David. Then David and Senan made their union, and David gave his crozier to Senan in token of their union.
Thereafter Senan went to sea towards Ireland, and he took up his abode in the island of Ard Nemidh in the district of Hui Liathain. And there he remains for the space of forty days and nights, until God manifested to him the place of his resurrection. Then Raphael the archangel came to converse with Senan, and said to him: “Go then and take a place from the great folk which there is awaiting you!” “Question, then!” said Senan, “on what side shall I go, and in what place will be my resurrection? “
“This had not come to you as yet!” said the angel: “so great is the multitude of the folk that has been gathered unto you that they will not fit with you in one place; wherefore you shall first establish many monasteries, and then you shall reach the place wherein your resurrection will be!”
Senan left a portion of his household there, and went according to the angel’s command till he came to Inis Cara beside Lua; and there he founded a church unto God.
SENAN’S RETURN TO MUNSTER
Then came a ship’s crew from the lands of Latium on a pilgrimage into Ireland. Five decades were their number, all of perfect folk. So each decade of them chose its favourite of the saints of Ireland; and they cast themselves on his favour before they would come out of their own country, and they cast on him the safe guarding of their way and of their journey until they should reach Ireland, that is, a day with a night to every band with the saint whose favour it should choose to pilot their voyage until each should come to the saint he had chosen. These are the saints whom they chose, namely Findia, and Senan, and Breannán, and Ciarán, and Bairre. Now the day that it happened to Senan’s household to safeguard the voyage, the pilot said: “Whose is this day?”
“The day of Senan’s household!” say they.
“Let help come quickly from them, if they have any one who can help us, for the wind had come bitterly against us!”
One of them, a humble bishop, rose up at once; and there happened to be in his hand the bone of the thigh, for it was the hour at which they were dining. And (with the bone) he blessed the air and said: “O Senan, let help come quickly, and let the wind become favourable!”
When bishop Mula had spoken these words, the wind came aft into the sail, and they had a fair breeze till they made land at Cobh in a place now remembered as the Holy Ground. His household remained with Bairre. The rest went to Senan to Inis Cara, and they had a welcome; and with him stayed his own household, even bishop lohann and bishop Mula with their decade. And from him their respective households go to Findia, and Ciarán, and Breannán.
Then messengers came from the king of Raithlenn, even from Lugaid the Breasted, to demand taxes from Senan. Senan said to the messengers, that he would not be under tribute to an earthly king. That answer was displeasing to Lugaid, and he said to his people: “Take you my racehorse to the cleric, and let it be fed on corn with him.”
Thereafter the horse was brought to Senan and he was put into the pool of the refectory to be washed, and the horse was immediately drowned in the pool, so that nothing save its leg (card] was seen above the pool. Wherefore thence the place is called Inis Cara , for Tuaim n-Abha had been its name until then.
When Lugaid was told that his horse had been drowned, he went with anger and fierceness to Senan and threatens him greatly. Senan grew angry with Lugaid, and said that the kingship over Hui Echach would never be inherited from him; and he said, moreover, to Lugaid that he (Senan) would deprive him of heaven and earth unless he should give him his desire. Now Lugaid had two foster-sons, namely Aed and Loeghaire. And they said to him: Give the cleric his full desire.” Then Lugaid gave them and Senan their full desire. And Senan leaves dignity continually on Lugaid’s children. Then Aed and Loegaire gave Senan his full desire, and Senan left them the kingdom of Hui Echach with them continually without quarrelling, so long as they should do Senan’s will.
After that Senan left eight of his household in Inis Cara with Cillin and with Feichin. A son was he of the king of Muskerry, and a pupil of Senan’s. Thereafter Senan went by God’s order, and set up in Inis Luinge, and founded a church therein. Then came the holy virgins to him, even the daughters of Breannán king of Hui Figeinte, and offered themselves to God and to Senan. That was the first-fruits of the Eoganacht Gabra to Senan. Then Senan leaves that church with them.
Thence Senan went to Inis Mor in Irrus Desceirt. The wind bears them past it so that they set up in Inis Tuaiscirt. So herein Senan stayed and founded a church to God in it, and he left in it a portion of his household.
Thereafter Senan went and set up in Inis Mor, and therein he founded a church. To a well whence water was wont to be drawn by them, a woman of the folk of the island went to wash her son’s clothes. So bishop Séadhna saw that and said: “Evil is yon deed!”
“What is that deed? said Libern, son of Dall.
“A woman washing her son’s clothes in the well out of which the water of Mass is brought to us “
“Her son!” said Libern, “had gone from her over the edge of Ireland!”
At that time the child was playing on the edge of the cliff in his mother’s presence. The boy fell down the cliff. The woman wailed after her child.
“It is wicked of you to commit the manslaughter,” said Senan.
“We admit penance upon us!” say they.
Quoth Senan: “Go you, O bishop Séadhna, for you are the cause of killing the boy, and take with you Libern, and leave him on the rock, so that God may pass judgment upon him, and do you take her son to the woman!” B
ishop Séadhna went and left Libern on his rock; and then he went seeking the child, and he found him in the trough, in which he was, playing with the waves. For the waves would reach up to him, and laugh around him, and he was laughing at the waves, and putting his palm to the foam of the waves, and he used to lick it like the foam of new milk; and the child remained there from one watch to another. Bishop Séadhna takes the child to him into the boat, and gives him to Senan, and Senan gives him to his mother.
Senan said to bishop Séadhna: “Go and fetch Libern from the rock, for I see that his Judge is compassionate unto him. The sea came not to him within the length of his crosier on every side!”
Then bishop Séadhna went and fetches Libern from the rock to the place where Senan was biding.
Said Libern: “What would be better for us than anything would be that we should be near water here!”
“It is close by!” said Senan, “for there is a well under your feet in the place wherein you art. Thrust your crosier beside your foot into the earth, and water will well forth to you!”
Libern thrusts his crozier beside his foot into the earth, and at once a well of pure water springs out of that place; and this is its name, Tobar Libirn
Quoth bishop Dalann: “This land is clayey and brittle; the sea will eat it away and carry with it our remains. Not good is the place for our resurrection!”
“So shall it not be!” said Libern; “but when you shall bury me, put my two soles towards the sea, and I shall obtain from God that the sea will not break that land thenceforward!”
And thus was it fulfilled.
Senan leaves bishop Dalann, and bishop Séadhna, and bishop Eire, and Libern, the son of the Dall, and other holy men along with them in Inis Mor. And Senan went and set up in Inis Caerach Caoil and leaves a party of his household therein. Thence Senan went and set up in Inis Connla, in the district of Hui Séadhna; and there he founded a church, and left therein two of his household, even bishop Fiannai and bishop Findein.
SENAN MOVES TO INIS CATHAIGH
Then came Raphael the Archangel to commune with Senan, and he said: “Come with me, and I will show you the place in which your resurrection will take place; for unto God it seems time for you to reach it!”
Then Senan and the angel went till they were on Mullach Feis. Then said the angel to him: “Behold the island there. Your resurrection shall be therein, and the resurrection of a great host of saints along with you. In the west of the world there is no more sacred island. No outrage to God had ever been committed there. God sent an awful monster to keep it, so that neither sinners nor sons of cursing should dwell therein, but that it should remain in holiness awaiting you. Yonder monster shall be put forth from the island before you, so that dwelling along with it may not annoy your community. For unto God it seems time for you to go and build a church in that island. Noble and venerable will that church be. It will be a head of devotion and a well of wisdom of the west of the world. It will be a protection of prayer to foreigners and to Gael. “
Said Senan to the angel: “What seems timely to God seems timely to me; for this is what I seek continually, that which is the will of God!”
With that the angels lifted him up along with the flagstone on which he was sitting, from Mullach Feis, and set him down on a high hill in the middle of the island; and thence is Ard na n-Aingel and Lee na n-Aingel in Inis Cathaigh. They sing praise to God in that spot, even Senan and the angels, and then they went to seek the monster, to the place in which it abode.
When the monster heard them, it shook its head, and its hair stood up upon it, and its rough bristles; and it looked at them, hatefully and wrathfully. Not gentle, friendly, mild, was the look that it bestowed upon them, for it marvelled that anyone else should come to visit it in its island. So it went to them strongly and swiftly, insomuch that the earth trembled under its feet. Hideous, uncouth, ruthless, awful, was the beast that arose there. Longer was its body than Inis na h-Urclaide. A horse’s mane had it; an eye gleaming flaming in its head, and it keen, savage, forward, angry, edged, crimson, bloody, cruel, bounding. Any one would think that its eye would go through him when it looked upon him. Two very hideous, very thick feet under it; behind it a mane. Nails of iron on it which used to strike showers of fire out of the rocks of stone wherever it went across them. A fiery breath it had which burnt like embers. A belly it had like the bellows of a furnace. A whale’s tail upon it behind. Iron, rending claws upon it, which used to lay bare the surface of the ground on the path they came behind the monster.
Equally did it traverse sea and land when it so desired. Then the sea boiled from the greatness of its heat and from its virulence when it entered it. No boats could catch it: neither from that day to this has any one escaped from it who could tell tidings of it.
Now, when the monster came savagely to the place where Senan was biding, it opened its maw so that, as it drew nigh the cleric, its entrails were clearly seen over the maw. There Senan lifted up his hand and made the sign of Christ’s Cross in its face. Then the monster was silent, and this is what Senan spoke to it: “I say unto you!” said he, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, leave this island and hurt no one in the district over which you wilt go, nor in the district unto which you will come. The monster went at once at Senan’s word out of the island till it reached Dubloch of Sliab Collain. And it did no hurt to any one, till it came there, nor after arriving; for it durst not oppose Senan’s word.
Now after that Senan and the angels went righthandwise round the island till they came again to the Height of the Angels, after they had consecrated the island. Senan said to the angel: Savage is the sea that there is around the island: there seems a troubled people therein. Though it be savage!” said the angel, whatever monk with humbleness of heart shall go from you …. he will not be drowned until he shall come back to you again. God had granted to you!” said the angel, that he over whom the mould of this island shall go, shall not be after Judgment an inhabitant of hell. Then the angel uttered this stave:
A sea high, stormy, past its side,
not a royal element:
No penance but death shall he taste,
He over whom its mould goes.
When those tidings were heard throughout the territories, to wit, that Senan was dwelling in Inis Cathaigh, and had expelled the monster from it, and when Mac Tail, king of Hui Figente, had heard that story, he was very wrathful, and this he said: “Who had dared!” said he, “to inhabit my land without my leave?”
He sent off his steward to desire Senan’s brothers, even Coel and Liath, to thrust forth their brother from the island. They went to the island to Senan and said to him: “It is to take you out of this island we have come, for the king of Hui Figente has opposed us. He says that this island belongs to him as well as the other islands of Limerick.”
“It is certain!” said Senan, “that this island does not belong to him, and that his share of the other islands is no greater than my share. “
“It is certain then!” say his brothers to him, “that it is necessary for us to take you out of the island.” Thereafter each of the twain takes his hand and dragged him with them perforce down over the rock. Then Coel grew angry with him, hauling him against the stones till he was all broken.
“Why is this!” said Coel to Liath, “that you do not drag this man along with me?”
“I will not do it,” said Liath. “I regret what I have done to him!”
“If!” said Coel, you should go to do any other deed you wouldst do it thus!”
“Why!” said Coel, “should you prefer to forfeit your own land than to take this lad out of the land which does not belong to him? It seems easier to me!” said Liath, “even to leave Ireland than to outrage this man!”
“It is not necessary!” said Senan to Liath, “for your children will inhabit the land after you. Yon man who loves the land, neither he nor his children after him will inhabit the land, and it is you that shall enjoy it!”
Then they went away and leave Senan in his island. As Coel reached the door of his dwelling in Ochtar Maige Fochaillech, he went to sudden death. When Liath saw that he returned to Senan and repented. Senan said to Liath: It is no mistake which you have made in not uniting with Coel, for had you done so your life would not have been longer than Coel’s, and your children would have perished!”
Said Liath to Senan: “Shall the body of yon wretched man be brought to you?“
“It shall not be brought!” said Senan, “for it is not meet that the Devil should have his soul and that I should have his body; but let him be buried in the hill on which he fell!”
So Coel was buried in that place, and his children after him perished, and Senan had his land.
Then his steward went to Mac Tail and tells him his tidings. Mournful was Mac Tail at those tidings and said: “I am grieved that yon churl should have taken my land from me perforce!”
Said the wizard to the king: “You need not be anxious about this, for I will take a charm to him, and he shall either die or leave your land in your possession!”
Glad was the king at this answer; and then the wizard went and put the king’s two charioteers in order on Senan, and unyoked in the place that he chose in the island. Then he went to the spot where Senan was biding and sang incantations against him, and said: “Leave the land with this spell!” Said Senan to him:
“I will resist your spell.
Disgrace shall be on you.
You shall be wretched without a noise. . . .
It is you that shall perish.“
“Stronger is the spell that I have brought with me!” said Senan, “and better is my lore.”
“It will be something if we know it,” said the wizard, “for I will now do something that you cat not do!”
“You will not do any good!” said Senan, “that I shall not do, and every evil that you shall do, God will, by means of me, put away!”
Thus the wizard brought darkness over the sun, so that no one in the island could see his comrade’s face. Senan charmed the darkness, so that they went away at once and it was bright.
The wizard brought thundering and abundant lightning and great confusion into the air.
Senan charmed all that and he puts it away.
Now when the wizard could do nothing to Senan, he went out of the island, and said to Senan: “I shall not see you before me here when I shall come again!”
“Whither go you? said Senan.
“I go!” said the wizard, “to a place that you know not, and you shall not know when I shall come and whence I shall go to you again!”
“I know well,” said Senan,” you will not come again into the land out of which you go, and it will not be lucky for you in the land unto which you shall betake thyself!”
Then the wizard went away in wrath, and he conjured a mist around him, so that it might not be seen that he was in Dairinis, that is, an island that lay opposite Inis Cathaigh in the South-east. This is why he went into it, in order that he might get to the apex of his art therein, and that he might summon demons to help him, for demons durst not come to help him in opposition to Senan. Now when the wizard had reached the island and dwelt therein, the sea comes over it, and the wizard is drowned therein with his people; so it is called Carraig na nDraoi today. Mac Tail was told that the wizard was drowned, and at that he was exceeding wrathful.
Now at that time the king held a meeting at Corcomruad. He came to Inis Cathaigh and said to Senan: “Is it you that takes my land from me, and that slew my wizard? It is certain that he and you shall have the same burial, for a stone under your neck will be cast into the depth of the sea to avenge on you the deed you have done!”
“You have not power to do so, said Senan. So the king said to Senan: Let not my horses be injured with you!”
“Tis not I that will be your horse-keeper!” said Senan.
“It is to you,” said the king, “that I have given my horses until I come again from my journey!”
“God is able!” said Senan, “to keep you from coming again into this land, and from reaching the end of your way!”
So the earth swallows up the horses in the place in which they were then, in Fan na n-Each (the Slope of the Horses) in the west of Inis Cathaigh. That was told to the king and his mind was not the better.
“Not meet for you!” said his son to the king, “was what you did to the cleric; and we know that he will take vengeance on you for it!”
“I do not value him more!” said the king, than a hornless swarthy sheep!”
“Though that is not mighty!” said Senan, “God is able to cause your death to come from it!”
Then the king went his way in wrath and pride. Now when he had got so far that he was going beside a cliff in the north of the district of Baiscenn, the hornless swarthy sheep started up under the feet of the horses that were drawing the chariot, and the horses made a great stumbling under the chariot before the sheep, and the king fell out of the chariot and struck his head against a stone, and there he perished, and went in that spot through Senan’s curse, in defeat of martyrdom, to hell; and his land belongs thenceforward to Senan.
Then Donnán, son of Liath, a pupil of Senan, and two little boys who were reading along with him, went to cut seaweed for Senan on the shore of a rock in the sea. Donnán returned to Inis Cathaigh and the sea carried off his boat from him, and he had no boat for the boys, and there was no other boat in the island to succour the boys. So the boys were drowned on the rock. Then on the morrow their bodies were borne on the tide till they lay on the strand of the island. Then came their parents and stood on the strand, and asked that their children should be given to them alive.
Said Senan to Donnán: “Tell the boys to arise and converse with me.”
Said Donnán to the boys: “You are called to arise and converse with your parents, for so said Senan to you.”
They straightway arose at Senan’s orders, and said to their parents: “what have you done unto us, bringing us out of the land which we had reached.”
“Why,“ said their mother to them, “would you rather stay in that land than come back to us?“
“Oh mother,“ say they, “though the power of the whole world should be given to us, and its delightfulness and joy, we should deem it the same as if we were in a prison, compared with being in the life and in the land which we reached. Delay us not; for it is time for us to go back to the land out of which we have come; and for our sakes God will cause that you will not suffer sorrow after us!”
Then their parents give them their consent, and they went along with Senan to his convent, and the Sacrifice was given to them, and they go to heaven; and their bodies are buried before the convent in which Senan abode. And those are the first dead folk that were buried in Inis Cathaigh.
Then Breannán and Ciarán came to get Senan for their soul-friend , for he was elder than they themselves, and his rank was higher, Senan was a bishop and the other two priests. Now there was no food to be seen in the convent when they arrived. So they were for the space of three days without food, both guests and community, and no food came from anyone. So Neachtán Longhead, king of Hui Figennte, was told that Breannán and Ciarán were in Inis Cathaigh conversing with Senan, and that their three days fast without food was complete. Neachtán said to his steward: “Have you finished preparing the feast which you were making for me?”
“It is finished,“ said the steward. “
Take it with you to Senan and his guests who are without food in Inis Cathaigh.“
Thus wasV done, and the king himself came, and waited in the port of the island, for he durst not go from the port without Senan’s permission. The feast was displayed to the cook, and he took it into the kitchen. The clerics then were summoned to the port of the island to converse with the king. And this he said to them: “This is my desire if my wish be perceived that my service be by Senan!” Then Neachtán kneels to Senan and, in presence of Breannán and Ciarán, offered himself, with his seed after him, in perpetual ownership for ever unto God and to Senan. Then the clerics bestowed a blessing on Neachtán and on his seed so long as they should fulfil Senan’s will. And the clerics, even Breannán and Senan, said that neither kingship nor primacy, nor goodness of wealth therein, would come to Neachtán’s seed which should not do Senan’s will. Then the king went to his province and bears a blessing from the saints. So the clerics came to their church and blessed the banquet that had been given to them.
Then said Breannán: “It is certain!” said he, that God’s vengeance will lie, here and beyond, on him who shall consume gratis the fruit of Senan’s fasting and prayer since it had not been permitted to me and Ciarán to consume it until we had first made its price by fasting and prayer!”
Thereafter came a year of great drought. His household lament to Senan that they have no water. Then an angel of God came to converse with Senan after that he had been praying at nocturnes, and this he said: “Greatly do your household complain to you that they are without water, go that we may see the place wherein there is water near them!” Senan and the angel arose at once and went to the spot in which the water is to-day.
The angel said to Senan: “Dig you here!” said he.
Senan takes a stake of holly which was near him, and digs the earth as the angel had said to him. As Senan dug, the angel cleansed.
The angel said: “Sufficient is its depth which you dig; there will be no want of water in this well so long as there shall be habitation in this church, and it will heal every illness which shall be brought to it!”
Then Senan sets the stake which was in his hand on the brink of the well, and it took the soil at once. On the morrow, as the brethren arose, they beheld the well full of water and the full-grown tree of holly on its brink.
Once upon a time Ciarán went to converse with Senan, and lepers came to him on Ochtar Sceith: they made an urgent request of him, so he gave his chasuble to them. Then he went in his single thread till he was on the shore, to the north of the island. It was manifested to Senan that Ciarán was in the harbour. Then a boat without a hide is brought for Ciarán, for there was no other boat on the island that could be brought for him. Senan went till he was in the harbour, having his chasuble in his keeping, in order to give it to Ciarán lest he should be ashamed at being without a chasuble. As Ciarán reached the port, Senan said laughingly: “Cowlless Ciarán! said he.
“Short will be my nakedness!” said Ciarán: “there is a cowl for me in your keeping!”
Ciarán takes the cowl around him, and in that wise they came to the church; and that is Ciarán’s cowl to-day.
Brigit, daughter of Cu Cathrach, of the Hi Mac Tail, a virginal holy maiden, set up in a church on Cluain Infide, on the brink of the Shannon. She had a chasuble as alms for Senan, and she had no messenger, so she made a little basket of rods of holly, and she put moss to it, and placed the chasuble in it, and put her to ask for the Sacrifice, and then she set the basket on the Shannon, and said to the river: “You have leave to bear that with you to Inis Cathaig.“
On the day, then, that the chasuble came to Inis Cathaig, Senan said to his deacon:” If you find aught on the strand, you have leave to bring it hither.”
The deacon went and found the basket on the strand, and carries it to Senan. Senan takes out the chasuble and puts it upon him. Thereafter two stones of salt are put into the same basket, and the box containing the Sacrifice is put in, and the basket is set upon the same water, and Senan said to it: “You have leave to carry this to Cluain Infide and display the box and the one piece of salt to Brigit, and you take the other piece of salt to Inis Clothrann to Diarmaid!”
When the basket reached Cluain Infide, Brigit went to it and takes thereout the box and one of the two pieces of salt. The stream of the Shannon then swept away the basket containing the other piece of salt and left it in Inis Clothrann with Diarmaid. So after that Brigit and Diarmaid gave thanks to God and to Senan.
Canair the Pious, a holy maiden of the Benntraige of the south of Ireland, set up a hermitage in her own territory. There one night, after nocturnes, she was praying, when all the churches of Ireland appeared to her. And it seemed that a tower of fire rose up to heaven from each of the churches; but the greatest of the towers, and the straightest towards heaven, was that which rose from Inis Cathaig.
“Fair is yon cell,” she said. ”Thither will I go, that my resurrection may be near it.”
Straightway on she went, without guidance save the tower of fire which she beheld ablaze without ceasing day and night before her, till she came thither. Now, when she had reached the shore of Limerick, she crossed the sea with dry feet as if she were on smooth land, till she came to Inis Cathaig. Now Senan knew that thing, and he went to the harbour to meet her, and he gave her welcome.
“Yea, I have come!” said Canair.
“Go!” said Senan, “ to your sister who dwells in yon island in the east, that you may have lodging therein.
“Not for that have we come!” said Canair, “but that I may have lodging with you in this island.
“Women enter not this island, said Senan.
“How can you say that? said Canair. “Christ is no worse than you. Christ came to redeem women no less than to redeem men. No less did He suffer for the sake of women than for the sake of men. Women have given service and attendance unto Christ and His Apostles. No less than men do women enter the heavenly kingdom. Why, then, should you not take women to you in your island?”
“You art stubborn!” said Senan.
“What then!” said Canair, “shall I get what I ask for, a place for my side in this isle and the Sacrament from you to me?”
“A place of resurrection!” said Senan, will be given you here on the brink of the wave, but I fear that the sea will carry off your remains!”
“God will grant me!” said Canair, “that the spot wherein I shall lie will not be the first that the sea will bear away.
“You have leave then!” said Senan, “to come on shore.”
For thus had she been while they were in converse, standing up on the wave, with her staff under her bosom, as if she were on land. Then Canair came on shore, and the Sacrament was administered to her, and she straightway went to heaven. God granted unto Canair that whoso visits her church before going on the sea shall not be drowned between going and returning.
Too many, now, to reckon and set forth are the miracles and marvels which God wrought for Senan. For there is none who could declare them all, unless an angel of God should come to declare them. Howbeit this little of them is enough for an example, even his inner life, his constant use l of every day, his humility, his gentleness, his clemency, his patience, his mildness, his charity, his mercifulness, his lovingness, his fasting, his abstinence, his prayer, his continual watching, his mind constantly in contemplation of God. There is none who could set him forth save one from God.
Now the virtues of Senan were many. He is the glassy well whereby all the folks which God entrusted to him are washed by the purity of his teaching. He moreover is the heavenly cloud whereby the earth of the Church and the souls of the righteous are illumined by the rain of his teaching with the holding fast of virtues. He, moreover, is the golden lamp which was lit by the Holy Ghost, by reason of whom the darkness of sins and transgressions flee from the house of the Church of God. He is the ever-victorious bark that bears the hosts of the righteous over the storm of the world to the shore of the Heavenly Church. He is the consecrated emblem (?) of the Heavenly King, which makes peace and likeness and harmony between Him and the sons of men. He is the mayor and steward and spencer, whom the Heavenly Overking sent to exact tribute of virtues and good deeds from Goedel’s many clans. He is the precious stone whereof the heavenly palace 2 is built for the hosts of the earth. He is the pure vessel by which the wine of God’s word is dealt out to the people. He is the great and happy hospitallier of goodly teaching, who used to satisfy the poor and naked. He is the branch of the True Vine which prepares life and satisfaction for the world. He is the true leech that heals the ailments and diseases of the soul of every faithful man in the Christian Church.
THE DEATH OF SENAN
Now when the day of the decease of that saint, even Senan, drew nigh after healing blind and deaf, and halt and dumb, and every other disorder; after founding cells and churches and monasteries for God, and ordaining therein bishops and priests and folk of every other rank, with anointing and consecrating and blessing of tribes, it came into Senan’s mind to go and make prayer at the relics of Cassidan his tutor, and his father’s sister Scath the Pious, the daughter of Dubthach. So he went on that side, and he visited Cell Eochaille to commence with Ner’s daughters who were dwelling there, pious, holy virgins, who had taken the veil at Senan’s hand, and who were under his spiritual direction. Then they entreat Senan that the body of some lowly monk of his community might be given to them, to be buried by us, so that his relics may be protecting us.
“Verily!” said Senan, “this shall be granted to you. Be in no distress as to one from whom your protection shall come!”
Then he bade farewell to the holy virgins, and went and made prayer at Cassidan’s relics, and came back till he reached the thorn which is in the wood to the west of Cell Eochaille. There he heard the voice calling to him from the heavens, and it said: “Come, O holy Senan, come you to heaven!” Senan answered and said: “Question,” said he. “He at once stopt in that place.” Then God’s angels uplifted Martin from Tours in a heavenly cloud and laid him down in the place where Senan was biding, and gave him communion and sacrifice. When all that God permitted was finished for him, the angels uplifted Martin the monk in the same cloud, and left him in Tours on the same day.
Then said Senan to his household: “Let my body be here till dawn!”
Senan sent his spirit to heaven among bands of angels, at the summons of the Trinity, at noon on the calends of March. Now Senan’s body lay there, and though on that night the light of the sun was absent from them, the presence of the angels of the Heavenly Light was not wanting to them.
Soon the morrow, out of the island for Senan’s body came his household, even Odhran and Mac Inill, and bishop lull, and bishop Mula, and Segda son of Baeth, and the other saints; and they buried Senan’s body with honour and great reverence, and angels carried his soul to the eternal rest in the union of the holy Trinity and heaven’s household.
I entreat God’s mercy, through Senan’s intercession, that we may reach that union and that we may dwell therein in saecula saeculorum. Amen.