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Born in Connaught, Ireland; died 626.

Give as if every pasture in the mountains of Ireland belonged to you. --Saint Aidan.

The Irish Saint Aidan loved animals. His fellow Irishmen were fond of hunting. Aidan so protected them that his emblem in art is a stag. One day as he sat reading in Connaught, a desperate stag took refuge with him in the hope of escaping pursuing hounds. Aidan by a miracle made the stag invisible, and the hounds ran off.

There were several Irish saints named Aidan but this one seems to have been the most important. As a youth he spent some time in Leinster but, desirous of becoming learned in holy Scripture, Aidan went to Wales to study under Saint David (Dewi; f.d. March 1) at Menevia in Pembrokeshire for several years. His only difference from his fellow monks is that he brought his own beer from his native land.

The inspiration of Saint David caused him to return to Ireland with several other monks to built his own monastery at Ferns, County Wexford, on land given to him by Prince Brandrub (Brandubh) of Leinster together with the banquet halls and champions' quarters of the royal seat of Fearna. He also founded monasteries at Drumlane and Rossinver, which disputed Ferns' claim to his burial site. In addition to monasteries, Aidan is credited with founding about 30 churches in Ireland. One source claims that Aidan became the first bishop of Ferns (which is not that unlikely because many abbots were treated as bishops during the period), which displaced Sletty of Fiach as the bishop's seat.

Later in life he returned to Saint David's for a time, and it is said that Saint David died in the arms of Aidan. Welsh tradition maintains that Aidan succeeded David as abbot of Menevia, and on that basis Wales later claimed jurisdiction over Ferns because a Welsh abbot founded it. In fact, in Wales they regard Aidan as a native and provide him with a genealogy that includes Welsh nobility. There his great reputation for charity still survives, for he taught his monks to give their last bits of food to those in need.

The written "vitae" of Saint Aidan are composed mostly of miracles attributed to him. His is attributed with astonishing feats of austerity, such as fasting on barley bread and water for seven years, as well as reciting 500 Psalms daily. An odd tale is related in another. Some spurious beggars hid their clothes, donned rags, and then begged for alms. Knowing what they had done, Aidan gave their clothes to the poor and sent the impostors away with neither their clothing nor alms.

One story reports that he bequeathed his staff, bell (Bell of Saint Mogue), and reliquary to his three monasteries of Ferns, Drumlane, and Rossinver. All have survived the fates of time. The staff can be found in the National Museum in Dublin; the other two in the Library of Armagh cathedral. The bell had been in the hereditary keepership of the MacGoverns in Templeport, County Cavan. Another of his personal belongings, the Breac Moedoc, is in the National Museum. This stamped leather satchel and shrine that encased the relics of Saint Laserian of Leighlin (f.d. April 18) was brought from Rome and given to Aidan, who placed it in the church of Drumlane. A bronze reliquary that contained his remains in the 11th century is preserved in Dublin. In addition to having a cultus in Ireland and Wales, Saint Aidan was venerated in Scotland in the 12th century.

He is represented in art by a stag because of the story related above (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Coulson, D'Arcy, Delaney, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague, Neeson, Porter, Stokes).

Another Life:

This saint illustrates the close co-operation that existed between the Celtic churches in Ireland and Wales. He was the greatly loved disciple of S. David for many years and during that time he was usually known by his baptismal name of Aedan but later in Ireland, where he founded the famous abbey at Ferns in County Wexford, he was given the prefix of endearment making his name Maedoc that was usually pronounced Mogue. It was his parents Sedua and Eithne, from the ancient families of the O'Neils and O'Briens, who named him Aedan and possibly his foster parents that started calling him "My little Hugh", Mo-Aidh-og, which gives us Maedoc. His parents had been childless for some time and had prayed frequently for an heir. One night a star was seen to descend upon both of them and a soothsayer told them they would have a wonderful son, full of God's grace. He was born on Brackly, an island in Templeport Lake in County Cavan, since called St Mogue's Island.

After his initial education he went to S. David's monastery at Menevia (Wales) to be trained and the stories about him show him to have been an ardent scholar, impetuous but with a deep reverence and obedience to his mentor. One day as he was reading a precious book out in the open he was called upon to run an errand and he immediately ran off leaving the book on the ground. There was a heavy deluge of rain and, although the book was miraculously unharmed, David finding him on the sea shore ordered him to prostrate himself in penitence for his carelessness. S. David returned to the monastery and forgot about the incident until at the evening office he saw that Aedan was not with his brethren. They all ran down to the beach and drew him from the waves that were submerging the still prostrate penitent.

The particular affection that David had for his Irish student did not endear him to all the community and the steward of the abbey persuaded one of the monks to engineer his death and make it look like an accident. David was putting on his sandals when he had a vision of the young man in danger and he ran to the forest with only one foot shod just in time to see the would-be assassin with his arms upraised about to deliver the death blow with an axe. By spiritual power the saintly abbot transfixed the monk who was left with his arms still up as Aedan ran towards his master escorted as S. David saw with innumerable troops of angels.

When the time came for him to return to his own country Mogue, as we must now call him, discovered he had forgotten to bring with him a bell which had been David's parting gift to him. He needed the bell for the monastery he was building at Ferns and he sent one of his monks to fetch it. S. David however sent the monk back empty-handed, entrusting the bell to a swift flying angel who was also able to advise him about a soul-friend, or confessor, recommending S. Molua.

Mogue was responsible for other foundations, notably Clonagh in County Limerick, but it was his monastery at Ferns in County Wexford that was most dear to him and in his thoughts when absent from it. One day when he was a hundred miles distant he saw one of the monks ploughing with oxen near Ferns and falling in front of the plough. The abbot raised his hand, the oxen immediately halted and the monk was saved from injury.

Only the wells remain of his foundations but after his death his bones were enshrined in a richly engraved and embossed casket called Breac M'Aodhog which is preserved, with its leather satchel, in the National Museum in Dublin. His day in the Irish Calendars is January 31st.

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