St Fintan

Patron of Dunbleisque, now Doon, Co Limerick. 6th century. Feastday: 3rd January.

An ancient biography of St Fintan is extant, as well as that of his brother St Finlugh, and it was published by Fr Colgan, the great hagiographer. It is thought that they were brought up in Co Limerick, but little is known of their early lives. There are different accounts of their father, some naming him Pippan, others calling him Diman, who was a descendant of an Ulster King. Their mother was called, Aliuna (or Ailgend, daughter of Lenin) and was also of noble birth.

There is an account of an irreligious King who ordered his men to bar St Fintan from visiting him. However, a mighty tempest arose immediately and mature crops blazed with fire, thus blinding the men who asked forgiveness of the saint. St Fintan blessed some water and after applying it to their eyes, their sight was restored and they bound themselves and their people to his service. This is one of several instances in the Lives of the Irish Saints, whereby individuals, families and even whole clans are said to have bound themselves and their posterity to the service and support of a particular Saint. These services are not always defined precisely but would appear to include giving tribute in money or kind for building and maintenance of churches, monasteries and schools.

St Fintan is said to have been trained under St Comgal at Bangor, Co Down. While there he is credited with many miracles: e.g. he miraculously gained a copy of the Gospels, which were extremely valuable in those days, when attacking pirates were overcome as a sudden storm uprooted a large tree and destroyed their ships with it. St Fintan recovered the Gospels from the pirates who had stolen them elsewhere. During Springtime a leper asked for bread for which the monastery did not have any flour. St Fintan caused the corn seed to grow fully immediately so that the bread could be made. He also exorcised demons. He caused a mill to grind for three days without the use of the usual power.

St Fintan left Bangor and attempted to settle near a hill called Cabhair, but an angel appeared to him and instructed him otherwise. However, in order that St Fintan should be honoured in that place, a bell miraculously came there through the air. It was called Dubh-labhar, meaning Black-toller, and it and St Fintan were venerated there in after times. St Fintan was known for his extraordinary sanctity. Peace, compassion and piety were enthroned in his heart. He maintained a heavenly serenity and equanimity of temper. He ministered to his guests and his brethern. He had no guile, no condemnation for anyone and was never angry or disturbed, he returned no evil for evil and he had no grief in any calamity.

He is said to have flourished in the second half of the 6th century and that most of his missionary work was confined to the Southern half of the country. He founded his monastery and school at Dunbleisque, now Doon, Co Limerick, which the Lord had designated for his habitation. There is a Holy Well to his memory in the neighbourhood but the exact site of his monastery in nowadays uncertain. St Fintan was made the Patron of the modern local Christian Brothers’ School as well as the local Mercy Convent Schools. A Pattern used to be held in the locality on his feast day. St Fintan’s biography gives no details regarding the place or date of his death. However, his feast is celebrated in Doon and Emly/Cashel on the 3rd of January.

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