Posted by: anna | January 14, 2010

St Fanchea

Happy Old Calendar New Year! Today we commemorate St. Fanchea of Killeany (ca. 520). From Miss Dunbar:

St. Fanchea, Jan. 1 V. Nun, c. 500.
One of the four daughters of Conall the Red, prince of Oriel, in Ulster, and Briga, his wife. The other daughters were ST. LOCHINIA, ST. CARECHA, and Darenia, who married Angus, king of Cashel. Fanchea was born at Rathmore, near Clogher. She was early sought in marriage by Angus, son of Natfraich, king of Momonia, who did all he could to gain her consent, but she remained firm in her resolution to become a nun, and have no husband but the King of kings. With the help of her sister Darenia, she built a monastery at Ros-airthir (now Rossory, on the banks of Lough Erne, co. Fermanagh). They brought together a number of virgins, many of them daughters of kings, and instructed them in the religious life.

Fachea’s brother, St. Enna (Latin,Endeus) succeeded his father as chief of the Oriels, but did not long remain an earthly prince, being chosen as a soldier of Christ. He came with his warriors to his sister s nunnery, demanding one of her virgins as his wife. Fanchea went to the girl, and offered her an earthly king or a heavenly for her husband. The virgin chose to be the bride of heaven, and lay down and died. St. Enna again demanded his bride, but when he saw her corpse, he was so much struck by her voluntary death, that he listened to the teaching of his sister, was converted, and became a monk. When his companions and followers heard this, they wanted to take him back and restore him to his worldly place ; but Fanchea, by the sign of the cross, restrained their power by making their feet stick to the ground, for she thought it just that those who desired the earth and the things thereof, should cleave to it. When they promised to do penance she set them free. St. Enna was under his sister’s direction for some time ; he occupied himself by digging trenches round the monastery and doing other manual labour, a common employment for one in his condition in those days. He was one day sorely tempted to forget his vows, and join in a fight which took place near his cell, between some of the men of Oriel and a hostile clan. Fanchea, seeing this, recalled him to his duty, bade him leave the country and go to Rosnat, in Britain, and there place him self under the guidance of Mansenus the abbot. St. Enna asked how long he should stay away. ” Until your fame comes back to us,” Fanchea replied. He accordingly went to Britain, and after being a disciple there for a long time, went on to Rome, and was ordained priest. He then collected disciples and built a monastery called Latinum. Some years after there came pilgrims from Rome to Ireland, and when St. Fanchea had hospitably entertained them at her monastery, she proceeded to question them about the saints living in distant countries. Among others, they told her of an Irishman, called Enna, of wonderful holiness and great fame, who ruled over the Latin monastery at Rome. On hearing this, Fanchea set off with three of her nuns to visit her brother. She did not allow them to take anything with them ; but one nun, thinking she knew better than her mistress, took a brass bowl for them all to wash their hands in. When they came to the sea, there was no ship in which to cross it, so the holy abbess spread her cloak on the water, and they all got on it, and put off from the shore with a fair wind. When they were a little way from land, the border of the cloak began to sink, which Fanchea perceiving, said, ” Now, my daughters, give glory to God and confess your sins, for our cloak is sinking on account of a sin committed by one of you.” Then the culprit produced the brazen bowl and confessed her fault. Fanchea threw the bowl into the sea, whereupon the border of the cloak rose again to the surface of the water, and they soon arrived safely at the desired port in Britain.

At the same time, ST. DARERCA, otherwise called MONINNA, being at her monastery of Belflebe, or Kilflebe, afterwards Ardmachan, in Ulster, went to pray in her church, and saw this very bowl lying on the ground at the foot of the cross. She exclaimed, “Lord God, this is a narrow way indeed ! Couldst Thou not even allow the holy virgin this one little basin to wash her hands in ? ” Then she tied the bowl to a similar one which she used for drinking, and prayed that God would allow them to go to St. Fanchea. Her prayer was granted, and Fanchea, recognizing the gift, gave thanks to God and St. Darerca.

St. Enna, having secret intelligence that his sister was coming to see him, bade his monks make ready to receive her and her friends. Fanchea arrived, and asked to see her brother. He sent a message that she might choose his salutation without seeing him, or see him without salutation. She chose the salutation, so a curtain was hung across the place, and St. Enna spoke to her from behind it. She told him he ought to double the talent entrusted to him by sharing it with his own countrymen in his native land. He replied that he would come there a year after her return home. She then advised him to settle, not in his native place, but in the Island of Arrau, which he eventually did.

Fanchea returned to Ireland on the same ship, namely, the cloak. She died before reaching home, and her mourning nuns wrapped her in this same cloak for her burial. The people of Leinster fought with those of Meath for her body, so it was put into a car drawn by two oxen, and it seemed to the people of Leinster that the oxen took it to Barrigh, where they buried it, but in reality they took it to Kilhaine, in Meath ; and there, in the parish church of Ros-airthir, in the diocese of Clogher, she has been specially venerated.

update 2011: Under the Oak post

Holy St Fanchea, pray to God for us.
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