Celtic and Old English Saints          21 March

* St. Enda of Arranmore
* St. Isenger of Verdun

St. Enda, Abbot of Arranmore, Father of Irish Monasticism
(Eanna, Endeus, Enna)
Born in Meath; died at Killeany, Ireland, c. 530 or 590; feast day
formerly on March 16.

In the 6th century, the wild rock called Aran, off the coast of Galway,
was an isle of saints, and among them was Saint Enda, the patriarch of
Irish monasticism. He was an Irish prince, son of Conall Derg of Oriel
(Ergall) in Ulster. Legend has it that the soldier Enda was converted
by his sister, Saint Fanchea (f.d. January 1), abbess of Kill-Aine. He
renounced his dreams of conquest and decided to marry one of the girls
in his sister's convent. When his intended bride died suddenly, he
surrendered his throne and a life of worldly glory to become a monk. He
made a pilgrimage to Rome and was ordained there. These stories told of
the early life of Saint Enda and his sister are unreliable, but the rest
is not. More authentic "vitae" survive at Tighlaghearny at Inishmore,
where he was buried.

It is said that Enda learned the principles of monastic life at Rosnat
in Britain, which was probably Saint David's foundation in Pembrokeshire
or Saint Ninian's (f.d. September 16) in Galloway. Returning to
Ireland, Enda built churches at Drogheda, and a monastery in the Boyne
valley. It is uncertain how much of Enda's rule was an adaptation of
that of Rosnat.

Thereafter (about 484) he begged his brother-in-law, the King Oengus
(Aengus) of Munster, to give him the wild and barren isle of Aran
(Aranmore) in Galway Bay. Oengus wanted to give him a fertile plot in
the Golden Vale, but Aran more suited Enda's ideal for religious life.
On Aran he established the monastery of Killeaney, which is regarded as
the first Irish monastery in the strict sense, `the capital of the
Ireland of the saints.' There they lived a hard life of manual labour,
prayer, fasting, and study of the Scriptures. It is said that no fire
was ever allowed to warm the cold stone cells even if "cold could be
felt by those hearts so glowing with love of God."

Enda divided the island into ten parts, in each of which he built a
monastery, and under his severe rule Aran became a burning light of
sanctity for centuries in Western Europe. Sheep now huddle and shiver
in the storm under the ruins of old walls where once men lived and
prayed. This was the chosen home of a group of poor and devoted men
under Saint Enda. He taught them to love the hard rock, the dripping
cave, and the barren earth swept by the western gales. They were men of
the cave, and also men of the Cross, who, remembering that their Lord
was born in a manger and had nowhere to lay His head, followed the same
hard way.

Their coming produced excitement, and the Galway fishermen were kept
busy rowing their small boats filled with curious sightseers across the
intervening sea, for the fame of Aran-More spread far and wide. Enda's
disciples were a noble band. There was Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise
(f.d. September 9), who came there first as a youth to grind corn, and
would have remained there for life but for Enda's insistence that his
true work lay elsewhere, reluctant though he was to part with him. When
he departed, the monks of Aran lined the shore as he knelt for the last
time to receive Enda's blessing, and watched with wistful eyes the boat
that bore him from them. In his going, they declared, their island had
lost its flower and strength.

Another was Saint Finnian (f.d. September 10), who left Aran and founded
the monastery of Moville (where Saint Columba spent part of his youth)
and who afterwards became bishop of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy. Among them
also was Saint Brendan the Voyager , Saint Columba of Iona, Jarlath of
Tuam (f.d. June 6), and Carthach the Elder (f.d. March 5) These and many
others formed a great and valiant company who first learned in Aran the
many ways of God, and who from that rocky sanctuary carried the light of
the Gospel into a pagan world.

The very wildness of Aran made it richer and dearer to those who lived
there. They loved those islands which "as a necklace of pearls, God has
set upon the bosom of the sea," and all the more because they had been
the scene of heathen worship. There were three islands altogether, with
lovely Irish names: Inishmore, Inishmain, and Inisheen.

On the largest stood Saint Enda's well and altar, and the round tower of
the church where the bell was sounded which gave the signal that Saint
Enda had taken his place at the altar. At the tolling of the bell the
service of the Mass began in all the
churches of the island.

"O, Aran," cried Columba in ecstasy, "the Rome of the pilgrims!" He
never forgot his spiritual home which lay in the western sun and her
pure earth sanctified by so many memories. Indeed, he said, so bright
was her glory that the angels of God came down to worship in the
churches of Aran (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, D'Arcy, Delaney,
Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Gill, Healy, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague).

Article on the Monastic Life of the Aran Islands

Troparion of St Enda tone 8
O Father of Irish monasticism, from Candida Casa thou didst settle on
the Isle of Aran,/ where thou didst train Saint Colum Cille and other
glorious Saints./ Holy Father Enda, pray to Christ our God to grant us
His great mercy.

St. Isenger of Verdun, Bishop
9th century (?). One of the early Irish bishops of Verdun in northern
Germany, who hailed from the Irish monastery of Anabaric (D'Arcy,


Attwater, D. (1983). The penguin dictionary of saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Attwater, D. (1958). A dictionary of saints. New York:
P. J. Kenedy & Sons. [Attwater 2]

Benedictine Monks of Saint Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most
useful book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author
provides a great deal of historical context in which to place the
lives of the saints.]

Delaney, J. J. (ed). (1978). Saints for All Seasons.
Garden City, New York: Doubleday.

Encyclopedia of Catholic Saints, March. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The glorious Company: Lives of Great
Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
London: Virtue & Co.

Kenney, J. F. (1929). Sources for early history of Ireland, vol.
1, Ecclesiastical. New York: Columbia University Press.

Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:

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