St. Fintan (Findan) of Rheinau, Hermit

15 November

Born in Leinster; died 879. Irish calendars commemorate 55 saints named Fintan. While still a youth, this Saint Fintan was carried off from Leinster to the Orkneys as a slave by Norse raiders. Pledging that he would make a pilgrimage to Rome, Fintan managed to escape by jumping into the sea and swimming to Scotland, where he was received by a kindly bishop. Two years later he began his pilgrimage on the continent, travelling first to Rome, then to the abbey of Farfa in Sabina.

Fintan spent his last 27 years with some Irish hermits in the Black Forest on the island of Rheinau, near Schaffhausen on the Rhein. Fintan drew up a rule whereby the hermits lived as did the religious of their Irish homeland. The last 22 of the 27 years were spent in almost total solitude, during which he was subject to many mystical experiences. The words he heard spoken in his native tongue by demons and angels were recorded by a 10th-century biographer and represent some of the earliest specimens of Gaelic that have survived.

The hermit's sacramentary (Kantonsbibl. 30) of the "Gelasian" type, which originated at Nivelles and contains a calendar with numerous devotions to Irish saints, is preserved in the University Library at Zurich. His "Missal" can be seen at the Saint Gall Library. In 1446, Saint Fintan's relics were enshrined at Rheinau (Attwater, Benedictines, D'Arcy, Daniel-Rops, Farmer, Gougaud, Kenney, Montague, Tommasini).

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