St. Brendan of Birr, Abbot

29 November

Died c. 562. Breandan is Gaelic for Prince. Born into the family of Fergus MacRoy, Saint Brendan of Birr a contemporary of Saint Brendan the Voyager (f.d. May 16), and his fellow-disciple under Saint Finian (f.d. December 12) at Clonard Abbey. An ancient, but incomplete, manuscript says that the 12 apostles of Ireland, who were together at Finian's school, saw a wonderful flower from the Land of Promise. Although today's saint was chosen by lot to go in search of that land, he was too old or frail for adventuring. Brendan of Clonfert went in his stead.

His abbey of Birr was somewhere near Parsonstown, Offaly. The ruins are said to be near Emmet Square where Old Saint Brendan's church stands. He was the great friend and adviser of Saint Columba (f.d. June 9). He intervened at a synod of Meltown (Meath) to end Columba's excommunication. Later, Columba had a vision of Saint Brendan's soul being carried by angels to heaven at the moment of his death. Columba immediately said a special Requiem for Brendan at Iona many days before he had confirmation of his mentor's death.

From the "Gospels of MacRegal" or "Mc Regol" (9th century), we know that Brendan's school at Birr endured through that time. This book, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is a wonderful example of Irish illumination (Anderson, Benedictines, D'Arcy, Farmer, Healy, Kenney, Montague, Ryan).

Troparion of St Brendan of Birr
Tone 8
Most glorious ascetic and chief of Ireland's Prophets, O Father Brendan, thou wast a bright beacon in the western isle guiding many to salvation.
At thy heavenly birthday the Angels rejoiced and miraculously announced their joy to our Father Columba.
The prayers of the righteous avail much for us sinners.
Wherefore O Saint, pray to God for us that He will find us a place in the Mansions of the Blest.

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