Posted by: anna | February 2, 2010

St. Fechin, abbot of Fobhar (664)

Today (20 January) we commemorate St. Fechin, abbot of Fobhar (664).

S. FECHIN, AB. OF FORE. (a.d. 665.)
[Authority, a life written in the 12th century, from tradition. Like so many of these Irish lives which were handed down from generation to generation, it contains many improbabilities.] S. Fechin was abbot of Foure, in West Meath, where he governed three hundred monks. He is said to have pitied the monks engaged in grinding their corn in querns, he therefore brought water from a marsh to the monastery, by cutting a tunnel through the rock, and then established a water mill. Of this Giraldus Cambrensis relates the following: There is a mill at Foure, which S. Fechin made most miraculously with his own hands, in the side of a certain rock. No women are allowed to enter either this mill or the church of the saint; and the mill is held in as much reverence by the natives as any of the churches dedicated to him. The Saint finding a poor leper, full of sores one day, took him to the Queen, and bade her minister to him as to Christ. She bravely overcame her repugnance, and tended him with gentle care.

Here occurs a very favourite incident in the lives of these Irish saints ; it shall be given in Latin. The same is told of S. Mochna and others. “Leprosus ad Reginam dixit : Nares meas in ore tuo suge, et phlegma inde extrahe. At ilia viriliter agens, sicut imperavit fecit, et phlegma in linteum posuit ; iterum quoque ei mandavit, ut similiter faceret, et id quod extraheret, S. Fechino reservaret.” When the Queen looked into the handkerchief, she found two clots of solid gold, one of which she retained, the other she gave to S. Fechin. The incident I give as characteristic, rather than edifying. [Rev Dr B-G is being coy in a 19th century sort of way, but the incident is revolting – the leper asks the Queen to suck the phlegm from his nostrils and spit it into the handkerchief, which she did – no little miracle in itself – and behold, clots of gold! St Teresa of Avila was only following in the tradition, then…]

Fechin was the son of Coelcharna, descendant of Eochad Fionn, brother to the famous king Conn of the Hundred Battles, and his mother Lassair was of the royal blood of Munster. When fit to be sent to school he was placed under S. Nathy of Achonry. Having finished his studies he was ordained priest, and retired to a solitary place at Fore in Westmeath, there to live as a hermit. But he was followed by many disciples, and Fore became a monastery of three hundred monks. He also established a religious house in the island of Immagh, near the coast of Galway. The inhabitants were then pagans, but Fechin and his monks converted them. His influence was very great with the kings and princes of his age. He died of a dreadful pestilence which swept Ireland in a.d. 665.
An Irish life has been recovered in MS. of 1329, and published by Whitley Stokes, in the “Revue Celtique” for 1891, pp. 31S-53.


I am highly amused by the caveat of ‘many improbabilities’. Sure, saints’ lives are usually so probable!

Thy God-pleasing life, O Father Fechin,/ is an inspiration in our spiritual struggles. As thou didst guide souls to Christ in the abbey of Fore,/ cease not to intercede for all who call upon thy name,/ that our souls may be saved.

Holy St Fechin, pray to God for us.

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