Saint of the Day
Summary: St Finbarr, born probably at Garranes near Bandon and died in the first quarter of the seventh century. He came to live at Loch Irce (Gougane Barra), but when disciples gathered round him he moved to Cork. The monastery which he founded there became a famous centre of learning.
The tradition is that Finbar was from Inchigeela and lived as a hermit at Gougane Barra, in west Cork. When disciples gathered round him, he moved his monastic settlement to the mouth of the Lee, where the present city of Cork grew up.
Patrick Duffy discusses his name, his origins and the traditions about him.
Origin of his name
Several lives of this saint have been written. According to these, the saint’s original name was Lóchán, but when he went as a young man to be tonsured as a monk for the first time, the man shaving his head said: “The hair of this servant of God is beautiful.” Another said: “You have spoken well, because his name will be changed and he shall be called Finn-barr, that is ‘beautiful hair‘, from the beautiful head he offered in sacrifice to God.” So he was called Finbarr by some and Barra by others, Barra being generally used in the Irish language.
Monastic Community at Gougane Barra
The tradition is that Finbarr was the son of a metal-worker, that he trained in monastic school and was ordained. He founded a number of schools, one at Loch Irce, a beautiful place at the source of the River Lee, and now called Gougane Barra (Guagán in Irish means “little fissure”). He did not hesitate to join in the manual work of constructing the buildings for his community.
When disciples gathered round him, he moved on to make a foundation where the River Lee enters the sea, round which the town of Cork later developed and the Vikings made it their port. The motto for University College, Cork, is “Where Finbarr taught, let Munster learn”. Finbarr’s monastery was probably sited near where the Church of Ireland Cathedral of St Finbarr stands today. He is said to have died, not in Cork but in Cloyne.
Influence in Scotland
There are also many places in Scotland that have the name Barra, but this is probably more due to journeys made by Finbarr’s disciples than to journeys by himself.
An Alias of Finian of Movilla?
Pádraig Ó Riain, the scholar who has translated all the Lives and done most research on this saint, believes Finbarr of Cork is an alias of Finian of Movilla. He believes he was born and reared in an Irish colony on the west coast of Britain, that he came to Movilla, on Strangford Lough, that because of his reputation a penitential was named after him and that Colmcille came to study with him, when he was already an old man.
The real qestion then is: How did he come to be established in Cork?
Summary: St Sergius is the original of the pustiniky or “wilderness men”/”holy hermits” and is regarded as the protecting saint of Russia. He was brought into the Roman Catholic Church Calendar in 1940 through the introduction of a liturgical calendar for Russian Christians in union with Rome (the Uniates).
Patrick Duffy tells his story.
Born in 1315 in Rostov, one of the oldest towns in Russia a hundred miles north-east of Moscow, he was christened Bartholomew. During a military campaign against Rostov, his parents fled to the village of Radonezh where he grew up in poverty. When he was aged fifteen, his parents died. He and his brother Stefan set up a hermitage and a priest from Kiev dedicated it to the Holy Trinity.
Both lived for a time as pustiniky or “wilderness men”, that is, hermits practising self-discipline and prayer. When his brother went off to a monastery near Moscow, other disciples joined Sergius, each building a hut for himself. Sergius agreed to be their abbot and was ordained priest. Then a disagreement arose: some wanted a totally hermit way of life whereas Sergius wanted to make it more communal. Sergius left to start a monastery and Holy Trinity began to decline.
Four years later the Metropolitan of Moscow and the monks begged Sergius to return, which he did. The communal monastery thrived and soon Sergius became renowned as a man of wisdom. Although he left no writings, his teaching and the monastic institutions formed Russian spirituality.
Protecting saint of Russia
In 1380, Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow asked the abbot’s blessing on his struggle against the Tartars and Mongols from the East and when he did the Russians were victorious at the decisive Battle of Kulikovo (1380). Because of this Sergius was hailed as the protecting saint of Russia.
Death and influence
In 1392, Sergius became ill for the first time in his life and sensed it was time for him to die. He was buried in the principal church of his Holy Trinity monastery. He is a prime example of the pustiniky, or “wilderness men”, who by their prayer and self-discipline built up Russian spirituality and helped restore Russian society after the Tartar invasions.