By Christine Rousselle*
Ireland’s patron saint is St. Patrick, and for good reason: he brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 around the world, both by the Irish and those who are only Irish-for-a-day.
But Patrick isn’t the only saint the Irish adore–here are seven more Irish saints you should know about, too.
Patronage: Fisherman and sailors, especially those in Galway
Feast day: July 16
Not a whole lot is known about St. MacDara, but he was an early Christian figure in Ireland. MacDara’s island, off the cost of Carna, Galway, is the home to a church from the 10th century named after him. That church was built on the site of an earlier church from the sixth century, and it is possible that it marks his burial ground. Each year, on July 16, people come to Carna for Féile Mhic Dara (Macdara Festival), and travel to the island.
St. Brigid of Kildare
Patronage: Babies, blacksmiths, brewers, cattle, dairy workers, Florida, children with abusive fathers, poultry workers, nuns, the poor, and many more
Feast Day: February 1
It’s debated whether or not St. Brigid actually existed, as she has the same feast day and name as a pagan goddess. However, tradition states she was born in the fifth century, and her mother was a Christian slave who had been sold when she became pregnant. St. Brigid herself was born a slave. She was known for her charity and dedication in feeding the poor. St. Brigid is also said to have turned water into beer. She founded a monastery in 480, at Kildare. She died there in the year 525. St. Brigid’s Day is still observed in modern-day Ireland, and it marks the first day of spring. Part of the celebrations include the creation of a “St. Brigid’s cross.”
Patronage: Mental illnesses, runaways, victims of incest, those with depression, those with anxiety
Feast Day: May 15
St. Dymphna was born in Ireland in the 7th century. Her mother was a Christian, and her father was a pagan. She devoted her life to Christ when she was 14, and took a vow of virginity. After her mother passed away the next year, her father, suffering from mental illness, decided that he only wanted to marry a woman as beautiful as his late wife. He then began to pursue a marriage with Dymphna. After realizing what was happening, Dymphna, along with her priest and a few others, fled to Belgium. In Belgium, she built a hospice for the sick. Her father attempted to bring her back to Ireland, and tracked her down in Belgium. When she refused to go with him, he martyred her. She is also known as “Lily of Éire” and has been venerated in the Church since her death.
St. Charles of Mount Argus
Feast day: January 5
Although born in the Netherlands, Joannes Andreas Houben, (who took the name Charles when he joined the Passionists) moved to Ireland in 1857, when he was 35. It was in Ireland that he developed a reputation as a healer. Several miraculous cures are attributed to him, and he became so popular that he was actually transferred to England in 1866. He stayed there for eight years, before coming back to Ireland. St. Charles remained in Ireland until his death in 1893. Upon his death, the newspaper wrote that, “Never before has the memory of any man sparked an explosion of religious sentiment and profound veneration as that which we observed in the presence of the mortal remains of Father Charles.” He is buried in Dublin. St. Charles of Mount Argus was canonized in 2007 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
St. Finnian of Clonard
Patronage: Diocese of Meath
Feast Day: December 12
St. Finnian was born in 470. He studied in what is now France and Wales, and he founded Clonard Abbey in County Meath around the year 520. He was renowned for his teaching ability and popularity. At the time of his death, it was reported that “no fewer than 3,000” people were studying under St. Finnian at the Abbey. A number of his students founded monasteries of their own in Ireland. St. Finnian died in 549.
St. Enda of Aran
Feast Day: March 21
St. Enda was a pagan warrior-king who converted to Christianity through his sister, St. Fanchea. St. Fanchea was an abbess, who agreed to give her brother one of the girls in the convent if he would stop fighting. However, the girl she promised him died, and after viewing her body, St. Enda realized that he too would one day die and face judgment. He then began studying for the priesthood. St. Enda was given three islands that are now called the Aran Islands, and he founded the first monastery in Ireland at Killeany, located on Inismór, one of the islands. His monasteries were a pilgrimage destination in the early Irish church. St. Enda died around the year 530. Along with St. Finnian of Clonard, he is dubbed one of the “fathers of Irish monasticism.”
St. Brendan the Navigator
Patronage: Mariners, sailors, divers, whales, Dioceses of Clonfort and Kerry
Feast Day: May 16
St. Brendan was born in the fifth century AD. Not a whole lot is known about his early life, but records of his existence date back to the seventh century. He was reportedly a seafarer. Brendan was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Legend has it that he went on a seven-year journey to the “Island of the Blessed.” This journey is recorded in the book “Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis.” He is said to have studied under St. Finnian of Clonard, and is known as one of the “12 Apostles of Ireland.” He died in the late sixth century and has been venerated ever since.
*Christine Rousselle is a Washington, D.C. Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. This week, she is in Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.