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mingen, Holy Cross at Eichstatt, a Priory at Kelheim and another at Oels in Silesia, all of which were founded during the twelfth or thirteenth century, and formed a Benedictine congregation approved of by Pope Innocent III., and presided over by the Abbot of Ratisbon. These Irish houses, with their long lines of Celtic abbots, in the days of their prosperity did much work that was excellent and civilizing, and rightly deserve a remembrance in the achievements of Ireland's ancient missionaries.
Ratisbon and its dependent abbeys, as is set forth in the papal briefs of 1248, possessed priories in Ireland, and, from these, novices were usually obtained.
But evil days came for the Congregation of St. James, and now it is extinct. The subjugation of Ireland to England, says Wattenbach, contributed no doubt to the rapid decline of the Scotic (that is, Irish) monasteries. For from Ireland they had up till then been continually receiving fresh supplies of strength. In this their fatherland the root of their vitality was to be found. Loss of independence involved loss of enterprise.
SCHOLARSHIP AND INFLUENCE: Irish monks were not only apostles of souls, but also masters of intellectual life. Thus in the seventh century the Celtic monastery of Luxeuil became the most celebrated school in Christendom. Monks from other houses and sons of the nobility crowded to it. The latter were clearly not intended for the cloister, but destined for callings in the world.
There were outstanding men among these missionaries from Ireland. St. Virgilius of Salzburg in the eighth century taught the sphericity of the earth and the existence of the Antipodes. It was this same teaching that Copernicus and later astronomers formulated into the system now in vogue.
St. Columcille himself was a composer of Latin hymns and a penman of no mean order, as the Book of Kells, if written by him, sufficiently proves. In all the monasteries which he founded, provision was made for the pursuit of sacred learning and the multiplication of books by transcription. The students of his schools were taught classics, mechanical arts, law, history, and physics. They improved the methods of hus
bandry and gardening; supplied the people, whom they helped to civilize, with implements of labor; and taught them the use of the forge, an accomplishment belonging to almost every Irish monk.
The writings of Adamnan, who spent most of his life outside his native land, show that he was familiar with the best Latin authors, and had a knowledge of Greek as well. His "Vita S. Columbae" (“Life of St. Columcille") has made his name immortal as a Latin writer. His book “De Locis Sanctis” (“On the Holy Places”) contains information he received from the pilgrim bishop Arculfus, who had been driven by a tempest to take refuge with the monks of Iona. On account of the importance of the writings of Adamnan and because of his influence in secular and ecclesiastical affairs of importance, few will question his right to a distinguished place among the saintly scholars of the West.
Irish monks, abroad as well as at home, were pre-eminently students and exponents of Holy Scripture. Sedulius wrote a commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul; John Scotus Erigena composed a work, “De Praedestinatione” (“Concerning Predestination"); Dungal was not only an astronomer, but also an excellent theologian, as is clear from his defence of Catholic teaching on the invocation of saints and the veneration of their relics. His knowledge of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers is exceedingly remarkable.
St. Columbanus, besides other works, is said to have composed an exposition of the Psalms, which is mentioned in the catalogue of St. Gall's library, but which cannot now be identified with certainty. The writings of this abbot are said to have brought about a more frequent use of confession both in the world and in monasteries; and his legislation regarding the Blessed Sacrament fostered eucharistic devotion.
Marianus Scotus is the author of a commentary on the Psalms, so precious that rarely was it allowed to pass beyond the walls of the monastic library. His commentary on St. Paul's Epistles is regarded as his most famous production. Herein he shows acquaintance with Saints Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, and Leo, with Cassiodorus, Origen, Alcuin, Cassian, and Peter the Deacon. He completed the work on the 17th
May, 1079, and ends the volume by asking the reader to pray for the salvation of his soul.
TRANSCRIPTION: In all the monasteries a vast number of scribes were continually employed in multiplying copies of the Sacred Scriptures. These masterpieces of calligraphy, written by Irish hands, have been scattered throughout the libraries of Europe, and many fragments remain to the present day. The beauty of these manuscripts is praised by all, and the names of the best transcribers often find mention in monastic annals. The work was irksome, but it was looked upon as a privilege and meritorious.
It remains to speak of that glorious monument of the Irish monks, the abbey of St. Gall, in Switzerland. It was here that Celtic influence was most felt and endured the longest. Within its walls for centuries the sacred sciences were taught and classic authors studied. Many of its monks excelled as musicians and poets, while others were noted for their skill in calligraphy and the fine arts. The library was only in its infancy in the eighth century, but gradually it grew, and eventually became one of the largest and richest in the world. The brethren were in correspondence with all the learned houses of France and Italy, and there was constant mutual interchange of books, sacred and scientific, between them.
They manufactured their own parchment from the hides of the wild beasts that roamed in the forests around them, and bound their books in boards of wood clamped with iron or ivory.
Such was the monastery of St. Gall, which owes its inception to the journey through Europe of the great Columbanus and his monk-companions-men whose lives, according to Bede, procured for the religious habit great veneration, so that wherever they appeared they were received with joy, as God's own servants. “And what will be the reward," asks the biographer of Marianus Scotus, "of these pilgrim-monks who left the sweet soil of their native land, its mountains and hills, its valleys and its groves, its rivers and pure fountains, and went like the children of Abraham without hesitation into the land, which God had pointed out to them?” He answers thus: “They will dwell in the house of the Lord with the
angels and archangels of God forever; they will behold the God of gods in Sion, to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever.”
Lanigan: Ecclesiastical History of Ireland (Dublin, 1829); Montalembert: Monks of the West (Edinburgh, 1861); Moran: Irish Saints in Great Britain (Dublin, 1903); Dalgairns: Apostles of Europe (London, 1876); Healy: Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars (Dublin, 1890); Barrett: A Calendar of Scottish Saints (Fort Augustus, 1904); Stokes: Six Months in the Apennines (London, 1892), Three Months in the Forests of France (London, 1895); Fowler: Vita S. Columbæ (Oxford, 1894); Wattenbach: Articles in Ulster Journal of Archæology, vol. 7 (Belfast, 1859) ; Gougaud: Les Chrétientés celtiques (Paris, 1911); Hogan: Articles in Irish ECclesiastical Record, 1894, 1895; Drane: Christian Schools and Scholars (London, 1881).
THE IRISH AND THE SEA
By WILLIAM H. BABCOCK, LL.B.
"HE beginning of Irish navigation, like the beginning of
everything else, is hidden in the mist of antiquity. Vessels of some kind obviously must have borne the successive waves of immigrants or invaders to the island. Naturally they would remain in use afterwards for trade, travel, exploration,
Irish ships may have been among those of the Breton fleet that Cæsar dispersed at Vannes after an obstinate struggle. Two or three centuries later we find Niall of the Nine Hostages making nautical descents on the neighboring shores, especially Britain: and there is every probability that ships of the island conveyed some at least of the "Scots” (Irish) whom Gildas in the sixth century describes as joining the Picts in furiously storming the Roman wall.
The equally adventurous but more pacific work of exploration went on also, if we may judge by that extraordinary series of Irish sea-sagas, the Imrama, comprising the Voyages of Bran, Maelduin, the Hui Corra, and St. Brendan—the lastmentioned deservedly the most famous. These vary in their literary merits and in the merits of their several parts, for they have been successively rewritten at different periods, receiving always something of the color, belief, and adornment which belonged to the writer's time; but under all may be dimly traced, as in a palimpsest, the remote pagan original. At their best they embody a lofty and touching poetry very subtle and significant, as when we read of Bran's summoning by a visitant of supernatural beauty to the isles of undying delight, where a thousand years are but as a day; his return with a companion who had been overcome by longing for Ireland and home; the man's falling to ashes at the first touch of the native soil, as though he had been long dead; and the flight of Bran and his crew from the real living world to the islands of the blessed. At least equally fine and stirring is St. Brendan's interview with the exiled spirit of Heaven, whose "sin was but little", so that he and his fellows were given only the pleasing penance of singing delightfully, in the guise of beautiful birds, the praises of