Posted by: anna | November 3, 2009

St Fintan Munnu

Today we commemorate St Fintan Munnu , abbot of Taghmon (635).

from Baring-Gould:

S. Fintan Munnu was of the Nial family, and son of Tulchan and Feidelmia. It is not stated to which branch of the Nial family he belonged, but it appears probable that he was a member of the northern family. He is said to have been placed first at the school of Bangor under S. Comgall, and to have afterwards studied in the school of Kilmore Deathrib, which S. Columba is supposed to have governed some time before his departure from Ireland. Passing by this more than doubtful statement, Fintan’s chief master and instructor seems to have been Sinell, son of Maynacur, with whom he remained for eighteen years at Ciuain-inis, until about the time when he resolved on going to Iona to seek admission into that famous monastery.

While preparing to set out for the island, he was informed that S. Columba was dead, and was succeeded as abbot by his disciple Baithen. Fintan still persevered in his determination, hoping to be received by Baithen into his community. When he arrived in lona, he was treated as a mere stranger ; for his name was not known there, and Baithen had never seen him before. But when the abbot had learned his name and family he refused to admit him into his congregation of monks, because, he said, S. Columba had bidden him announce to a young man named Fintan, of the race of Mocumoie, who should come there, that he was to return to Ireland and found a monastery in Leinster. Accordingly, with Baithen’s blessing, Fintan went back to his native land.

What is here related must have occurred in 597. But another story is told in the Aberdeen Breviary, which says that he came to lona before the death of S. Columba, but immediately on his decease returned to Ireland. In the life of S. Cainnech is another story again. The father of S. Fintan, Tulchan, wishing to please the Lord, came to lona, bringing with him his little boy, whom he loved devotedly. Baithen said, ” This laic loves his son more than the Lord, therefore they should be separated.” S. Columba thereupon ordered Tulchan to cast the child from a height into the sea, which hard saying the father, giving thanks to the Lord, but with great sorrow of heart, fulfilled. S. Cainnech, however, was passing in a boat, and picked the child up. Then going to S. Columba, he said to him, ” Henceforth we cannot be friends, for thou hast given a cruel and impious command, and hast afflicted the heart of a poor stranger.” The saint rewarded S. Cainnech by administering to him the holy viaticum at the hour of his release from the body.

Probably the truth is that S. Fintan came to lona shortly before the death of S. Columba, and as he and Baithen could not agree, he was obliged to leave the monastery and return to Ireland.

In Wexford Fintan Munnu founded the abbey of Taghmon, where he presided over 152 holy monks. He had a controversy with S. Laserian about the introduction of the Roman cycle, which he vehemently opposed. The Breviary of Aberdeen styles him Abbot of Kilmund and Dissert. Kilmund is either Kilmun in Argyle, or is the island of S. Munde in Loch Leven, near where the Coe discharges itself into the lake, and it is probable that at some time of his life, S. Fintan Munnu resided at both these places, and formed religious establishments. The term “Dissert” was used in the Celtic Church for any religious solitude, and is simply the desert to which the holy man betook himself. St. Fintan died on October 21st, 635.

An instance of his meekness is given. When he was in his abbey at Hele, S. Kiara came to the door, followed by five maidens, and knocked. ” See here,” said she, “you have fifty strapping men with you, I only five girls. It is therefore reasonable that you should decamp, and build yourselves a new monastery, and leave this ready constructed one for me and my maids.” S. Fintan said, “There is reason in what she says,” and departed with his monks.

King Dimna of Fothart sent to Fintan to ask a present of him. The saint sent him his shirt, in which he had slept that night, and assured him he would find it useful some day. Some while after, Kellach, son of Dimna, ” having turned layman,” [he had previously been a monk] cut the throat of Odo Clane, son of Cruindmael,- King of Leinster. Then Cruindmael, having collected an army, surrounded Dimna in the Isle of Barry. But the king slipped S. Fintan’s nightshirt over his regal attire, and escaped in that disguise. One of S. Fintan’s monks had assisted in cutting the throat of Prince Odo Clane, and King Cruindmael having caught him, put him in a boat, and ordered some of his men to execute him at sea. But the boat stuck in a sandbank, and the saint arrived with his threats and exhortations, frightening them, before the monk was killed, and he carried him off in triumph to his monastery.

Shortly after a woman with an issue of blood was brought in her bed to his monastery, seeking his miraculous intervention. ” Do you dare to ask me to pray over a Leinster person ! ” exclaimed the angry abbot, and turned away. But his servant, more merciful, ran and fetched his master’s chasuble, which lay on his bed, and placed it over the woman, who was thereupon healed.

S. Fintan was visited every Sunday and Thursday by an angel. One Thursday the heavenly messenger did not arrive ; S. Fintan asked an explanation on the ensuing Sunday. ” S. Molua of Clonfert died on Thursday,” replied the angel, ” and we heavenly spirits were so excited and busy receiving him that you were overlooked.” ” And pray,” said Fintan, ” is Molua the only man in Ireland who keeps the commandments of God, that you should devote exclusive attention to him, and leave us poor living saints in the lurch? Go along with you now, and ascertain what superiority was found in Molua.” The angel departed, and returned again with the answer, ” Molua, when he scolded his monks, did so with such gentleness as not to wound their feelings. As for you, you rate and abuse them so fiercely that their faces are scarlet with wrath and shame.” ” Look here,” said Fintan ; ” I should like my arrival into the heavenly mansions to be as greatly applauded as that of Molua.” ” Then,” said the angel, ” you had better be struck with leprosy.” So Fintan was a leper for twenty-three years, and all that time he never scratched himself nor used a bath, except on Maundy Thursday, when he indulged himself in both ways.

In the Life of S. Mochna it is said that S. Fintan was a leper for only seven years, and was healed at the end of that time by Mochna. And as this saint was conducting Fintan home in his car, one of the horses which drew them broke its leg, thereupon S. Mochna called a stag from the forest to take its place. In the Life of S. Luged, or Molua, however, it is said that Fintan was a leper to the day of his death. The Life of S. Fintan assures us that when that saint was dead, and the angels were bearing his soul away, they came across the path of a rout of devils on their way to do some mischief or other, and when the devils saw the face of Fintan, they were so taken aback, that for the rest of the week the power of doing any evil to any mortal was gone from them.

Troparion of St Fintan tone 8
As a disciple of Iona’s founder,
thou wast rooted firmly in the Faith and the monastic disciplines,
O Founder of Taghmon’s Monastery, holy Father Fintan,
Righteous Ascetic and Champion of our Church.
As thou didst defend the tradition of our Fathers in the Faith,
defend us, O Saint, from soul destroying innovations,
that we stray not from the way of salvation.

Holy St Fintan, pray to God for us.
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