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ornament not only of the Irish but likewise of the
whole Catholic church, St. Malachy, began to be
distinguished. He was of the ancient and noble-
family of the O'Morgairs, supposed to be the same
as the O'Doghertys, and his original name was
Maolmaodhog, (30) It is highly probable, that he
was born at Armagh, and particularly so, if it be
true, as stated in various Irish annals, that his father
was Mugron O'Morgair the celebrated professor of
that city. (40) This much is certain, that it was
there he was reared from his earliest age. (41) His
birth must, in all probability, be assigned to the year
1095. (42) The mother of St. Malachy was a
pious and sensible woman, and instilled into his mind
from his first years the principles of morality and
good conduct. (43) He was of a sedate quiet dis-
position, and of a very pious turn of mind, fond of
prayer and retirement, and exceedingly attentive in
learning such rudiments as boys are taught in schools,
so as, being endowed with very good abilities, to sur-
pass all his class-fellows. He would have wished to
frequent churches, but was prevented partly by his
attendance at school, and partly by his not wishing
to appear singular while so very young. Yet he used
to pray as often as he could. His master was in the
habit of taking a walk to a village near Armagh,
and was wont to take him as a companion. Malachy
used to seize opportunities of remaining for a while
a little behind him, and, spreading out his hands
towards heaven, throw out some ejaculatory prayers.
Having passed the time of boyhood, and being ar-
rived at the age of adolescence, his piety still in-


creasing, he began to consider of a state of life,
and how he should serve God and guard against the
blandishments of this world, There was a holf man
at Armagh, who led a very austere life and was
inexorable in chastising his body. His name was
Tmar, and he lived in a cell near a church, where
he continued to serve God day and night in fasting
and prayer. To him Malachy repaired and became
a disciple of his, (44f) sitting with him, listening
in silence to his instructions, and exerting himself
to imitate his conduct. As soon as it was known
that he became a companion of Imar, various remarks
were made by the inhabitants of Armagh. Some
were sorry, that so delicate a youth, and who was
loved by every one, had given himself u]> to so severe
a life. Others said that being so young he would not
persevere. Yet he did, and within a few days time
was followed by several other persons, who also
placed themselves under the direction of Imar.
Among them Malachy was pre-eminent by his pro-
gress in piety and virtue.

(39) See above Not. 18.

(40) lb. To this may be objected what St. Bernard says f Vit.
S. Malach. cap. 1.) that his parents were great as to family
and power, whence it would follow that his father was rather a
chieftain than a professor. St. Bernard's words are ; " Parentes
" ilH fuere genere et potentia magni juxta nomen magnorum,.
" qui sunt in terra." This can be easily reconciled with the state-
ment of the Irish annalists, if we suppose, as I think we ought
to do, that the parentes of St. Bernard docs not mean fat hey
and mother, but, according to the acceptation quite usual in the
middle ages, relatives or kinsfolk^ such as parens in French and
parenti in Italian. If St Malachy's father was a chieftain or
dynast, how has it come to pass, that he passed his childliood in
Armagh under the care of his motlier? A chieftain or a cliief-
tain s family would have resided in their district amidst their vas-
sals. Some one may say ; Is it to be admitted, that St. Malachy,
who belonged to so illustrious a family, could have been son


of only a professor, or that professors were to be found among
the members of such families ? I answer ; Why not ? Many a
professor I have known, that belonged to highly noble families,
and some of them even heads of such families. This would in-
deed have been a very rare case in most parts of Europe during
the times we are now treating of, and when kings, princes and
nobles could neither read nor write. But the Irish princes and
nobles did not sink into this neglect of learning, and some of
their most learned men were persons of illustrious birth, such as
ex. c, Fedlemidh Mac-Crimthan, king of Munster, in the 9th
century, Cormae Mac-Culinan of the same royal blood in the
beginning of the 10th, Dubdalethe, of the powerful house, that
kept possession of the see of Armagh, in the 11th, and who was
professor at Armagh before he was appointed its archbishop
under the name of Dubdalethe III. It is therefore not singular,
that Mugron O'Morgair, although of high and powerful connec-
tions, was a professor. For, as the Irish nobility respected and
cultivated literature, more or less, so such of them as were duly
qualfied were not ashamed to teach it.

(41) St. Bernard, speaking of Armagh, says {ib. cap. 2.);
•' Ipsa est, in qua alitus est Malachias." The term, alitus, indi-
cates his having lived there when even a small child.

(42) This is easily deducible from the testimony of St. Bernard,
who states that he died in the 54th year of his age, A. D. 1148.
Now, as the day of his death was the 2d of November, it follows
that, unless we are to suppose that he was born at a time of
year later than this, his birth must have occurred in 1095.

(43) St Bernard makes no mention of his father, whence it
may be justly inf^red that he died when Malachy was very young.
This helps to corroborate what we have seen concerning his hav-
ing been the son of Mugron, whereas Mugron died in 1102,
(above, }. 2.) at which time St. Malachy was only about seven
years old.

(44) It is strange, that Colgan ( Tr. Th. p. 299.) confounds
Imar with the master, under whom St. Malachy was placed when
a small boy, and marks the beginning of his tuition by Imar at
A. 1100. He says that this appears from the Life by St. Ber-
nard. Now it -is evident from said Life, that Colgan was highly
mistaken. As to St. Malachy's having been under any master in


IJOO, wlien he was only about five years old, St. Bernard has not
a word ; and, instead of assigning to him, while a boy, Imar as
master, he expressly tells us, {cap, 1. and 2.) that he did not
apply to Imar until he was a grown up lad, and after he had spent
his boyhood under his first master. Besides, Imar did not keep
a school for teaching boys. Ware {Bishops at St. Malachy) has
followed in some measure Colgan's mistake by saying, that the
saint was educated Jirst under Imar, and has added another of
his own m calling Imai* an abbot, instead of which title he should
rather have given him that of hermit or recluse. Harris, in his
additions to Wave has copied these mistakes, and adds that he
spent seven years with Imar. This is an idle and unfounded con-
jecture. According to it St. Malachy would have left Imar, when
he was no more than twelve years old. But the fact is that he
had passed that age, before he placed himself under the direction
of Imar. Nor is there any account of the number of years, which
St. Malachy spent with him. This much is known, that he con-
tinued to be, more or less a disciple of his, although it seems not
living with him, until he was ordained priest and about 25 years
of age. And here comes a monstrous blunder of Harris, who
sends him from Imar, that is, when, in his system, only 12 years
old, to Lismore ; whereas on the contraiy, as will be seen, St.
Malachy did not go thither nor leave Armagh until after he was a
priest. Imar's surname was, according to the 4- Masters, ( ap. Tr-
Th. p. 300.) O'Hoedhagain,

§. VI. After some time Celsus and Imar consi-
dered him worthy of the order of deaconship, and
forced him to accept of it. Accordingly, although
he had not as yet reached the canonical age of
twenty-five years, he was ordained deacon by Celsus,
and immediately set about fulfilling the duties of
his office. He was particularly assiduous in burying
the deceased poor, insomuch that his sister used
to reproach him continually, as if he were insane,
for applying to what she tliought so mean an occu-
pation. He slighted her rebukes, and continued
to act as usual. When he was about twenty-five
years of age, Celsus, with whom Imar agreed in


opinion, thought right to ordain him priest without
waiting for the age of thirty usually required by
the canons. (45) He then appointed him his vicar,
and gave him full powers £ov the purpose of esta-
blishing necessary reforms. St. Malachy exerted
himself greatly in this respect, and established
the customs of the Roman church in all the
churches of the diocese, and particularly the singing
of the canonical Hours, according to the general
system of the Christian world, being well skilled in
Church music, which he bad learned in his younger
days. This practice of singing the Hours in the
churches had not been observed, or rather had
ceased to be observed, in the diocese, and even at
Armagh. (46) Thus St. Malachy realized, as far
as concerned that diocese, the plan of Gillebert of
Limerick relative to the substitution of the Roman
office for the Irish ones. He abolished superstitious
practices, and strove to root out every abuse,
that fell in his way. The practice of confession
had been much neglected, there not being as yet
any general law of the Church prescribing the use
of it at certain times. Yet it was observed in
Ireland as well as in every Catholic country by
persons, who wished to be delivered from their sins,
and was much attended to by those, who had ad-
dicted themselves to a life of peculiar strictness and
sanctity. (47) The more frequent use of it was
revived by St. Malachy, who also took care that
the sacrament of confirmation should be admins-
tered oftener than it used to be. It is not sur-
prising that this sacrament had been neglected in
a diocese, which had been governed by laymen
calling themselves archbishops, if we consider that
real bishops have been found in every part of
Europe so slothful and remiss as to omit for many
years the administration of it. Next it is stated,
that St. Malachy re-established, or rather new-
modelled the contract of matrimony. (48) This


cannot mean, that lawful marriages were not ob-
served in the diocese of Armagh, whereas it i^
certain thajt they were, (49) but is to be understood
of some regulations introduced by St. Malachy
relative to said contract. (50) It is probable that,
while labouring to establish the Roman customs,
he endeavoured to introduce certain matrimonial
impediments, hitherto not generally observed in
Ireland, particularly that, by which, according to
the more general rule of those times, marriage was
prohibited within the seventh degree of relation-
ship. (51) Or, what is equally probable, and I
think more so, St. Malachy undertook to substitute
the system of Sponsalia de praesentiy the same as
the marriage contract now practised, for the
Spo7isalia de fiitiirOy which was the more usual
mode of contracting marriages in Ireland, and
which, accompanied with certain conditions, ren-
dered in those days, marriage as valid and binding
as the other form did.

(4-5) St. Bernard remarks, [cap. 2.) that the circumstance of
the canonical rules not behig strictly observed in either of St.Ma-
achy's ordinations, whereas he became a deacon before he was
25 and a priest before he was 30 years of age, is to be excused
on the plea of the zeal of the ordainer and the worth of the or-
dained. Concerning the age required for priests and deacons see
Not, 74- to Chap, iv. and Not, 87 to Chap, xi.

(46) In Butler's Lives of Saints (at St. Malachy, Nov. 3.)
it is said, that the rehearsal of the canonical hours in all the
churches of the diocese had been, since the Danish invasions,
omitted in the cities. This is a mistake. St, Bernard speaks of
only one city, that is, Armagh. Elsewhere indeed he says, that
a similar neglect of repeating the ecclesiastical offices in the
churches prevailed in the diocese of Connor. But in the far
greatest part of Ireland these offices and hours were observed
and celebrated, as is evident from Gillebert's treatise, De usiv
Ecclesiastico, (See Chap. xxv. §. 10.) although they were in ge-
neral different from the particular ones recited at Rome. How


could Gilllebert have said, that almost all Ireland was bewildered
by the variety of offices, and that 9 learned man accustoRied to
one set of offices used to appear like an ideot in a church, where a
different one was followed, unless the offices and canonical hours
were regularly observed ? Nor is it correct to state, that the re-
hersal of the offices was omitted since the Danish invasions ; for,
besides it not having been omitted at all in the greatest part of
Ireland, it continued at Armagh for a long period after those in-
vasions had begun. The reading of Psalms and singing of hymns
lasted for twelve days and nights over the body of Brian Boroimhe,
in the cathedral of Armagh, A.D. 1014; {Annals of Innisfallen
ad an.) and m 1022 we find Amalgaid, archbishop of Armagh,
attending at the obsequies of Maelseachlin, king oflreland, which
were celebrated in the monastery of Inisaingin not only with masses,
but likewise with hymns, canticles, and psalmody. (See Tr. Th. p,
298. and compare with' Chap, xxiir. §. 12.) It is probable that
psalmody was still practised at that time in the churches of Ar-
magh. What put a stop to it must have been the abuses caused
by the lay so called archbishops, which went on increasing until
the early part of the 12th century. It does not, however, follow
that the canonical hours or offices were entirely neglected ; for al-
tliough they were not celebrated solemnly in the churches, they
were read in private. All that St. Bernard complains of is, that
they were not observed nor sung in the churches ; had they been
quite omitted, even in private, he would have spoken in a style
not of complaint but of invective. And they certainly must have
been repeated, nay sung, before St. Malachy undertook to have
them celebrated again in the churches ; for otherwise, how could
he have learned Church music even before he was in holy orders ?
Surely, to enable him to learn it, there must have been clergymen,
who were in the habit of singing their offices at least in private.
Beauford in a dissertation inserted by Ledwich says, {Antiq. S^c.
p. 235.) that the Latin church music was introduced by Malachy;
and elsewhere (p. 240. 2d ed.) the Doctor himself, talking of Gre-
gorian and Ambrosian chant, tells us, that ours must have been
on a Greek model. That the Church music practised by St. Ma-
lachy was the improved Latin one, commonly called Gregorian, is
plain from St. Bernard, who makes mention of it as conformable
to the Roman custom, and according to the mode then generally


fuUowed. But St. Malach^ was not the first to introduce it into
Iceland, wheieas he had learned it himself before he had the
power of doing so. It had been long before introduced into
France. King Pepin had exerted himself to substitute it for the
old Galilean chant, and Pope Stephen II. when on a visit with
him in France, gave instructions on it. Charlemagne sent persons
to Rome to learn it, and Pope Adrian sent him two Roman
silvers, and thence it came gradually to be adopted in that coun-
try ; (see Ducange, Glossar. &c. at Ca?itus Romamis and Cardinal
Bona, De Divhiia psalmodia, cap. 17. §> 4-.) whence, owing to the
^eat intercourse between France and Ireland, it might have been
brought over to us, or perhaps from England, or straight from
Rome by some of those many Irishmen, who resorted thither
down from the seventli century. Whether it were generally re-
ceived in Ireland, I am not able to state, although it is ffroba-
ble that it was not, considering how much a very great portioa
pf the Irish clergy was attached to every practice followed by St.
Patrick, Columbkill, and the old doctors of their church, who in
all probability used the ancient Galilean chant ; for, as to the Gre-
gorian one, they could not have adopted it, as it was either not
practised in their time, or not known to them. Even in England,
notwithstanding its being used by the Roman missionaries, it was
confined to a small part of that country until a late part of the se-
venth century, (see Bede, L. 4. c. 2.) although James the deacon
about the middle of said century had tauglit it at York. {Idem L.
2. c. 20.) Ledwich's saying that the old Irish chant was neither
Gregorian nor Ambrosian is correct as to the Gregorian ; but how
did he know that it was different from the Ambrosian? This
chant, which is still kept up, was in use before the times of St.
Ambrose, (Bona, ib. cap. 18. §. 10.) and consequently of St. Pa-
trick. It was probably much the same as the Galilean. His add-
ing that ours was on a Greek model may in one sense be admit-
ted as tme ; and he might have said the same of the Ambrosian
and Gallican, the former of which is attributed to an archbishop
Mirocletes and the latter may justly be ascribed to the Greek mis-
sionaries, Pothinus, &c. who preached in Gaul. But there is no
reason to think, that the Irish received their Church music di-
rectly from Greeks, conformably to Ledwich's favourite h)q)othe8is
of Greek and Asiatic missionaries in Ireland. The style of mu-


sic, which they followed in singing the Church service, could not
have been any other in ancient times than what had been brought
to them, apparently from Gaul, by St. Patrick and his followers,
who were not Greeks.

(47) Toland, who has been followed by some others more igno-
rant than himself, had the impudence {Nazarenus, Letter ii. Sect»
2. §.6.) to assert, without alleging a single proof, that the Irish
rejected auricular or particular, that is, private confession and sa-
cerdotal absolution. Now he knew that Usher has shown, that
" they did (no doubt) both publicly and privately make confes-
sion of their faults" and that they submitted to absolution by the
bishop or priest in consequence of the power of the keys enjoyed
hy the sacerdotal order, and which Usher admits it does
possess. {Discourse of the Religion^ 8^c. chap. 5.) It is true, that
he misrepresents some Catholic tenets relative to absolution, ex. c.
his insinuating that, according to the Catholics, the enjoined pe-
nances have no " reference to the taking away of the guilt," and
that the bishops and pi-iests attribute to themselves more than a
ministerial power in the remission of sins. But this is not the
place to discuss such questions, and it is sufficient to observe, that
he not only admits, but proves the very reveree of Toland's lying
position. He remarks that, whatever may be said of certain
Goths of Languedoc, of whom Alcuin says, or is supposed to
have said, that it was reported they used not to confess to the
priests, this has nothing to do with the ancient Scottish and Irish,
whose practice was quite different. Usher's reason for touching
on this point was that Alcuin's letter to the Gothlsh (71st in
Duchesne's edition) was in some MSS. marked as written to the
Scottish. The passage runs thus ; " Dicitur vero neminem ex
laicis suam 'vclle confessionem sacerdotibus dare^ quos a Deo Christo
cum Sanctis Apostolis ligandi solvendique potestatem accepisse
credimus." But, however this is to be understood, (for perhaps
It is relative not to sacramental confession but to certain dues
called Confessio ; (see Ducange at Confessio, No. i.) it is well
Icnown, that said letter was directed not to Irishmen but to Goths.
(See Fleury, L. 45. §. 20.) Usher quotes an Irish canon, to
which several others might be added if necessary, whence it is
evident that confession, penances, and sacerdotal absohi^ion were
observed in Ireland. He mentions the practice of St. Cutlibert,

F 2


and the case of Adaninan of Coldingham, who confessed his
sins to an Irisli priest, as related by Bede, L. 4. c. 25. Besides
what Usher had collected, there are innumerable proofs of the
Irish system on these points. Several clergymen are noticed in
our annals as distinguished penitentiaries, and who were resorted
to from various parts on account of their merit and ability in this
particular. Thus St. Gormal, abbot of Ardoilean, is praised on
this account ; (see Chap, xxiii. §. 16) the blessed Dubtach of
Albany, who died in 1064, is styled the chief Confessarius or
spiritual director both of Ireland and Albany, {Tr. Th. p. 298.)
Sfc. S^c. We find the same practice in much more ancient times,
ex. c. in the case of a chieftain Suibhne, who, although truly peni-
tent, was ordered by St. Pulcherius, who lived in the seventh cen-
tury, to confess his sins. {Life of St Pulcherius^ cap. 19.) Con-
fession to the priest is ordered on certain occasions by St. Colum-
banus in his Penitential. In that of Cumian the confession of
secret sins and even of bad thoughts is much insisted upon. (See
Not. 55. to Chap, xv.) It was usual with religious persons to
place themselves under the particular direction of some holy man,
as, for instance, St. Maidoc of Ferns did under St. Molua of
Clonfert-molua, {Chap xiv. ^.10.) who was called hkjather con-
fissarius, ov father of his confession. (See Lfe of St. Maidoc^ cap.
20 and 54.) It would be superfluous to add more on a subject,
which is so clear from the whole of the Irish ecclesiastical history.
Toland himself quotes (J,b. Sect. 1.) a passage from an Irish writer,
in which the practice of confession and absolution is spoken of as
quite usual, although the author seems to have had a particular
opinion of his own concerning the nature of the absolving

(48) St. Bernard's words are ; {cap. 2.) " Contractum conjugi-
orum — Malacliias de novo instituit."

(49) Lanfranc, concerning whose letters to king Turlogh and
Gothric of Dublin we have seen above, {Chap, yix.iv. §. 12.)
makes mention, in both of them, of the lawfully >vedded wives
ofihe Irish, legitime sibi copulatam uxorem, legitime sibi copula-
tas. In like manner Anselm in his letters to king Murtogh (see
Chap, XXV. $.8.) speaks of Irish wives and marriages just as he
would of those of any other country ; and his or Lanfranc's com-
plaint, that some men used to quit their wives and take others, so


far from showing that lawful marriages were omitted in any part
of Ireland, proves quite the contrary. How could St. Bernard
have supposed, that they were unknown at Armagh, while he
s[>eaks so highly of St. Malachy's mother ? Making mention of
the eight laymen, who held the see of Armagh, he says that
they were married men, viri uxorati. How could that have been>
if marriages were not observed at Armagh ?

(50) Fleury (L. 68. \J. 58.; has very prettily expressed St. Ber-
nard's meaning by the words^ regularity in marriages^ la regie dn?is
les Jiiarriages.

(51) It has been already remarked, [Chap xxiv. §. 12.) that
some of the Irish clergy seem not to have extended the impedi-
ments relative to consanguinity or affinity beyond those marked in
Leviticus. Gillebert of Limerick, the contempory of St. MaJa-
chy, makes mention of the seventh degree, as that within which
marriage was not allowed. In his tract, De Statu Ecdesiacy he
writes ; " Conjugatorum est nullam usque in sextam vel etiara
septimam progeniem sanguine sibi conjunctam, aut illi quam ha-
buerit aut quam liabuit sibi proximus, vel commatrem ducere
uxorem." Yet it appears, that, however St. Malachy may have
succeeded in the diocese of Armagh, Gillebert's exertions were
not sufficient to establish that rule all over Ireland. Indeed it was
afterwards found necessary to restrain it, and to limit the prohi-
bition to within the fourth degree of consanguinity as well as of
affinity. There was a particular abuse, which some persons in
Ireland seem to have favoured, relative to allowing a man to many
the widow of his deceased brother. It is condemned in the 25th
canon of the synod, called Sijnodus S. Patricii, in these words ;
" Audi decreta synodi super istis. Frater thorum defuncti fratris
non ascendat, Domino dicente : Erunt duo in came una. Ergo
uxor fratris soror tua est." The enacting' of this canon indicates*
that there was some question on that subject in Ireland ; and one

Online LibraryUnknownAn ecclesiastical history of Ireland, from the first introduction of Christianity among the Irish, to the beginning of the thirteenth century , Compiled from the works of the most esteemed authors ... who have written and published on matters connected with the Irish church; and from Irish annals an → online text (page 6 of 45)