Wednesday, April 21, 2010

21 April

Today is the feast of St Anselm of Canterbury, whom you probably already know about. Sure, you do. From that History of Philosophy course? The fella with the ontological proof for the existence of God? (It didn't seem all that logical to me either, but what do I know. I don't entirely understand how the infield fly rule works either.) Well, for those who really don't remember, the good old Catholic Encyclopæda can fill you in here.

On the other hand, you probably don't know much about St Maelrubha (642-722), whose feast day also falls on the 21st of April. So, herewith from Mrs D'Arcy's very useful The Saints of Ireland:

What Colmcille and Moluag accomplished in ancient Scotland in the sixth century, Maelrubha rivalled in the seventh with a final great flowering of the Celtic Church before the Vikings. Maelrubha was of princely Niall lineage on his father's side, and through his mother was of Comgall's race of Irish Picts. He went to the monastery Comgall had founded for his education to the priesthood. His mission base at Applcecross, like Moluag's, was an offshoot of Bangor.

The saint's Applecross brethren ranged widely over both Pictland and Scottish Dalriada, and Maelrubha's name is recorded in place names scattered over the length and breadth of Scotland. He won great fresh extensions of the Celtic territory, all of the rugged, almost inaccessible western seaboard between Loch Carron and Loch Broom, the south and west parts of the Island of Skye and eastern Ross. Twenty-one known parishes were dedicated to Maelrubha under such forms of his name as Maree, Mulruby, Mary, Murry, Summuruff, Summereve. For fifty years he tramped the high roads and the low roads with such a reputation for sanctity and miracles he was regarded as the patron saint throughout all of that territory.

To the north of Applecross in the long narrow scenic Loch Maree is Maelrubha's little island, Inis Maree, "the favored isle of the saint." On it besides his oratory and a cemetery was his holy well, a spring "of power unspeakable" in cases of insanity. It was famous until very recent times for the cures obtained there. He is still invoked for mental illness in Scotland.

Scottish legend makes Maelrubha a martyr at the hands of Norse pirates and the parish church at Urquhart is said to occupy the site of the chapel first built to mark the spot where he died. A mound outside Applecross, Cloadh Maree, is pointed out as his grave. Within a radius of six miles of this the area was accorded all the rights and privileges of sanctuary.