St. Samthann of Clonbroney (of Meath), Virgin

19 December

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Died 739; some give her feast as December 18. The veneration of Saint Samthann, the Irish nun who founded Clonbroney (Cluain-Bronach) Abbey near Granard in County Longford, was introduced to the Continent and promoted by Saint Virgilius of Salzburg (f.d. November 27). Her name is included in both the litany and the canon of the Stowe missal, as well as an ancient litany at Salzburg, Austria.

A Life written later tells us that Samthann was raised by Cridan, king of Cairbre Cabhra. He arranged for her marriage but a miracle prevented it. Thereafter she became a nun under Saint Cognat at Ernaide (Donegal), from where she moved to Clonbroney.

Her Life provides us with some of her wise sayings. When a monk asked in what attitude should prayer be made, she responded "in every position: standing, sitting, or lying." Another said he was going to stop studying in order to pray more. She advised that he would never be able to fix his mind and pray if he neglected study. When yet another said he was making a pilgrimage, she remarked that the kingdom of heaven can be reached without crossing the sea and that God is near to all who call upon Him.

A tradition reports that Samthann once prayed a soul out of hell, an accomplishment attributed only to a very few of the great Christian saints. Praying a soul out of hell was, however, not an uncommon accomplishment for Irish saints; one scholar has claimed it to be an "almost exclusively Celtic motif."

Samthann would not accept large estates for her convent. She preferred that her sisters live in poverty as demonstrated by the fact that the community had but six cows for its herd.

One tradition relates that the convent of Clonbroney was founded by Saint Patrick for the daughters of his former master, Milchu. Another claims the foundation was made by the disciples of Saint Brigid. But in later times Samthann was bestowed with that honour. The convent was one of the three most important--with those of Kildare and Cloonburren--in Ireland. Its last known abbess died in 1160 (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague, Mould, Ryan).

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