Friday, February 09, 2007

Great Scotus! A Trio of Irish Saints to "Attracta"

Whether it's to help us forget the winter doldrums, or to help celebrate the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team's first number one ranking in history (yes, Irishmen with sticks do make me a little nervous, but they are chasing pucks, not Protestants), Feburary 9 finds not one, but three Irish saints (okay, two saints and one blessed, but whose counting?) to warm our hearts and inspire our souls . . .

St. Attracta (also known as Athract or Taraghata) was an attractive Irish lass, who alas, had a rich dad who wanted her married while she longed to become a nun. Attracta waited 'til the time was right, and then by night she fled to Coolavin, where none other than St. Patrick himself granted her her wish. As a nun, she founded a hospice in Connaught (which survived until the Reformation), and was said to have great powers of healing, not only through miracles, but through the use of herbal medicines. One legend has Attracta parting the waters of Lough Gara to help a group of free men escape from the evil King of Connaught—twin lakes in the area still bear her name for this reason.

On the other hand, St. Attracta also was a bit of a firecracker. When her half-brother, St. Conall, refused to let her build a cell near his church, she cursed him in robust terms, wishing his church be reduced to rubble, his good works amount to nothing and, according to Butler's Lives "other things too extreme to be recorded." The account of their reconciliation is less detailed, but rest assured that Attracta took back her swears before she became a saint. I'm sorry, Charlie Weis, but even Irish football coaches aren't excluded from this rule!

Our second hero, St. Cronan of Roscrea, was famous as a founder of monasteries, given credit for establishing close to fifty of them during his lifetime of nearly one hundred years. Along with St. Brigid, Cronan is credited with an "Irish miracle of Cana"—in other words, turning water into beer during an Irish wedding celebration. Unlike Brigid, whose gallons were rather modest, Cronan figured better safe than sorry, and turned so much water into suds "that nearly all the guests became inebriated." While it is not recorded if the bride and groom named their first child after him, it is for obvious reasons that Cronan became known (at least in Ireland) as the patron saint of hospitality.

Our last, but not least, Blessed Marianus Scotus (Murdoch McRoberts was his given name), like many Irish monks in the eleventh century set out to make a pilgrimage to Rome, only to have his services be required elsewhere. Marianus eventually settled in Regensburg, Germany (his men obviously were taking the long way to the eternal city). He became famous for copying sacred texts, especially the scriptures, as well as for his own religious commentaries and poems. Scotus slept little and worked virtually unceasingly—legend has it that one night, when the servant woman forgot to bring him candles, they later found him holding up three fingers on his left hand, from which three jets of brilliant light streamed forth. His holiness brought recruits from his native country, and the Irish maintained a Regensburg presence until Luther and his cronies expelled the monks in 1515. Marianus died around the year of 1080.

Attracta, Cronan, and Marianus—pray for us!

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