Sunday, 4 January 2015

St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh, by H. J. Lawlor. Part 8.


St. Malachy becomes Bishop of Connor; he builds the Monastery of Iveragh.

16. (10). At that time an episcopal see was vacant,321 and had long been vacant, because Malachy would not assent: for they had elected him to it.322 But they persisted, and at length he yielded when their entreaties were enforced by the command of his teacher,323 together with that of the metropolitan.324 It was when he was just entering the thirtieth year of his age,325 that he was consecrated bishop and brought to Connor; for that was the name of the city through ignorance of Irish ecclesiastical affairs St. Bernard misunderstood the information supplied to him, and thus separated Malachy's tenure of the abbacy of Bangor from his episcopate, though the two were in reality conterminous. For the significance of Malachy's recall to the North, see Introduction, p. liii. f.; and for a fuller discussion, R.I.A., xxxv. 250-254..

But when he began to administer his office, the man of God understood that he had been sent not to men but to beasts. Never before had he known the like, in whatever depth of barbarism; never had he found men so shameless in regard of morals, so dead in regard of rites, so impious in regard of faith, so barbarous in regard of laws, so stubborn in regard of discipline, so unclean in regard of life. They were Christians in name, in fact pagans.326 There was no giving of tithes or first-fruits; no entry into lawful marriages, no making of confessions: nowhere could be found any who would either seek penance or impose it. Ministers of the altar were exceeding few. But indeed what need was there of more when even the few were almost in idleness and ease among the laity? There was no fruit which they could bring forth from their offices among a people so vile. For in the churches there was not heard the voice either of preacher or singer.327 What was the athlete of the Lord328 to do? He must either yield with shame or with danger fight. But he who recognized that he was a shepherd and not a hireling, elected to stand rather than to flee, prepared to give his life for the sheep if need be.329 And although all were wolves and there were no sheep, the intrepid shepherd stood in the midst of the wolves, rich in all means by which he might make sheep out of wolves330—admonishing in public, arguing in secret, weeping with one and another; accosting men now roughly, now gently, according as he saw it to be expedient for each. And in cases where these expedients failed he offered for them a broken and a contrite heart.331 How often did he spend entire nights in vigil, holding out his hands in prayer! And when they would not come to the church he went to meet the unwilling ones in the streets and in the broad ways, and going round about the city, he eagerly sought332 whom he might gain for Christ.

17. (11). But further afield also, none the less, he very frequently traversed country parts and towns with that holy band of disciples, who never left his side. He went and bestowed even on the unthankful333 their portion of the heavenly meat.334 Nor did he ride on a horse, but went afoot, in this also proving himself an apostolic man. Good Jesus, how great things thy warrior suffered for Thy name's sake335 from crime-stained children.336 How great things he endured for Thee from those very men to whom, and on whose behalf, he spoke good things. Who can worthily express with how great vexations he was harassed, with what insults he was assailed, with what unrighteous acts provoked,337 how often he was faint with hunger, how often afflicted with cold and nakedness?338 Yet with them that hated peace he was a peacemaker,339 instant, nevertheless, in season, out of season.340 Being defamed he intreated;341 when he was dealt with unrighteously he defended himself with the shield of patience and overcame evil with good.342 Why should he not overcome? He continued knocking,343 and according to the promise, at length, sometimes, to him that knocked it was opened.344 How could that not follow which the Truth345 had declared beforehand should follow? The right hand of the Lord brought mighty things to pass,346 because the mouth of the Lord spoke347 the truth. Hardness vanished, barbarity ceased; the rebellious house348 began gradually to be appeased, gradually to admit reproof, to receive discipline.349 Barbarous laws disappear, Roman laws are introduced; everywhere the ecclesiastical customs are received, their opposites are rejected; churches350 are rebuilt, a clergy is appointed in them; the solemnities of the sacraments are duly celebrated; confessions are made; congregations351 come to the church; the celebration of marriage graces those who live together.352 In fine, all things are so changed for the better that to-day the word which the Lord speaks by the prophet is applicable to that nation; those who before were not my people are now my people.353

18. (12). It happened after some years that the city354 was destroyed by the king of the northern part of Ireland;355 for out of the north all evil breaks forth.356 And perhaps that evil was good for those who used it well. For who knows that God did not wish to destroy by such a scourge the ancient evils of His people? By a necessity so dire Malachy was compelled, and he retired with a crowd of his disciples. Nor was his retirement spent in idleness. It gave opportunity for building the monastery of Iveragh,357 Malachy going there with his brothers, in number one hundred and twenty.358 There King Cormac met him. He it was who at a former time driven out of his kingdom, under the care of Malachy by the mercy of God received consolation;359 and that place was in his kingdom. The king rejoiced to see Malachy, placing at the disposal of him and those who were with him himself and all that he had—as one who was neither ungrateful nor unmindful of a benefit. Many beasts were immediately brought for the use of the brothers; much gold and silver was also supplied, with regal munificence, for the expense of the buildings. He himself also was coming in and going out with them,360 busy and ready to serve—in attire a king, but in mind a disciple of Malachy. And the Lord blessed that place for Malachy's sake,361 and in a short time he was made great in goods, possessions and persons. And there, as it were beginning anew, the burden of law and discipline which he laid on others he bore with greater zeal himself, their bishop and teacher. Himself, in the order of his course,362 did duty as cook, himself served the brothers while they sat at meat.363 Among the brothers who succeeded one another in singing or reading in church he did not suffer himself to be passed over, but strenuously fulfilled the office in his place as one of them. He not only shared but took the lead in [the life] of holy poverty, being especially zealous for it more abundantly than they all.364

[321] Connor: see below. It is clear that after Malachy's consecration it was the see of a diocese which included Bangor (§ 15) and Down, the present Downpatrick (§ 31). The inference is highly probable that it included the whole district which constituted the "parish [i.e. diocese] of Connor," according to the decree of the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1110 (Keating, iii. 303: see above p. xli), that is to say, roughly, the present united dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore. It would seem that Malachy was its first bishop.

[322] Here, again, St. Bernard implies that a long period elapsed between Malachy's return from Lismore and his consecration; for the reason given in § 12 for his recall is inconsistent with the supposition that he had already been elected to a bishopric which Cellach and Imar wished him to accept. They desired to have him with them at Armagh. He must have been "elected" either while he was at Armagh or after he went to Bangor.

[323] Imar.

[324] Cellach. See § 19, where Cellach and his predecessors are called metropolitans.

[325] Tricesimo ferme aetatis suae anno. A.F.M. record under the year 1124 that "Mael Maedoc Ua Morgair sat in the bishopric of Connor." This agrees with the date of his consecration as given here. See p. 128, note 1. He was consecrated bishop by Cellach (§ 19).

We have seen (p. 20, note 3) that Malachy probably went to Lismore late in 1121. He spent several years there, and, according to St. Bernard, another long period at Armagh and Bangor before his consecration in 1124. This must be pronounced impossible. The most probable solution of the chronological difficulty is that through ignorance of Irish ecclesiastical affairs St. Bernard misunderstood the information supplied to him, and thus separated Malachy's tenure of the abbacy of Bangor from his episcopate, though the two were in reality conterminous. For the significance of Malachy's recall to the North, see Introduction, p. liii. f.; and for a fuller discussion, R.I.A., xxxv. 250-254.

[326] Cp. Giraldus, Top. iii. 19: "It is wonderful that this nation should remain to this day so ignorant of the rudiments of Christianity. For it is a most filthy race, a race sunk in vice, a race more ignorant than all other nations of the rudiments of the faith."

[327] For the statements in the preceding sentences, see Additional Note A.

[328] St. Aug., De Civ. Dei, xiv. 9. 2. Cp. Ignatius, Pol. 2; Hero 1. It may be noted that most of the MSS. of the Latin version of the Ignatian Epistles are Burgundian, and that among them is a Clairvaux MS. of the 12th century. Lightfoot, Ign. and Pol., i. 119.

[329] John x. 11-13.

[330] Compare St. Bernard's words to Pope Eugenius III. about his Roman subjects (De Cons., iv. 6): "I know where thou dwellest, unbelievers and subverters are with thee. They are wolves, not sheep; of such, however, thou art shepherd. Consideration is good, if by it thou mayest perhaps discover means, if it can be done, to convert them, lest they subvert thee. Why do we doubt that they can be turned again into sheep, who were once sheep and could be turned into wolves?"

[331] Ps. li. 17.

[332] Cant. iii. 2; cp. Ps. lix. 6, 14; Luke xiv. 21.

[333] Luke vi. 35.

[334] Luke xii. 42.

[335] Acts ix. 16.

[336] Isa. i. 4 (vg.).

[337] Cp. 2 Pet. ii. 7 f.

[338] 2 Cor xi. 27.

[339] Ps. cxx. 6, 7 (vg.).

[340] 2 Tim. iv. 2.

[341] 1 Cor. iv. 13.

[342] Rom. xii. 21.

[343] Acts xii. 16.

[344] Matt. vii. 8; Luke xi. 10.

[345] John xiv. 6.

[346] Ps. cxviii. 15, 16.

[347] Isa. i. 20.

[348] Ezek. ii. 5, etc.

[349] Lev. xxvi. 23 (vg.).

[350] Basilicae.

[351] Plebes.

[352] See Additional Note A.

[353] 1 Pet. ii. 10, combined with Hos. ii. 24.

[354] The city was Bangor, though St. Bernard may have taken it to be Connor. The word city (civitas), which he no doubt found in his authority, might be applied, like its Irish equivalent, cathair, to either place: but to St. Bernard it would naturally suggest an episcopal see. Connor was within the suzerainty of the king of the northern part of Ireland, Bangor was outside it. See next note.

[355] Conor O'Loughlin, who is called king of the north of Ireland in the Annals (s.a. 1136). He succeeded his father Donnell as king of Ailech (Grenan Ely, co. Donegal, the residence of the kings of the northern Ui Neill) in 1121, and the next year he invaded the northern part of Ulaid, the district in which Bangor is situated. He invaded Magh Cobha (Iveagh, co. Down) and Bregha (Meath), with the help of the Dal Araide (the district round Connor, co. Antrim) in 1128. He finally subdued Ulaid in 1130, and "plundered the country as far as the east of Ard [i.e. the baronies of the Ards, in which lies Bangor], both lay and ecclesiastical property." He was murdered on May 25, 1136 (A.U., A.L.C.). It has been supposed that the expedition of 1130 was the occasion of the destruction of Bangor mentioned in the text. But St. Bernard places it, and the consequent departure of Malachy to the south, before the death of Cellach in 1129 (§ 19), and we have found reason to believe that Malachy was at Lismore in 1127 (p. 21, n. 3). Though no raid by Conor in that year is referred to in the Annals, that fact cannot be regarded as proof that none took place.

[356] Jer. i. 14.

[357] Ibracense. That this monastery was in Iveragh, a barony in the county of Kerry, north of the estuary of the Kenmare River, and in Cormac Mac Carthy's kingdom of Desmond, was apparently first suggested by Lanigan (iv. 92). The identification is almost certainly correct. It is more difficult to determine the part of the barony in which the monastery was situated. O'Hanlon suggested Church Island, near Cahirciveen, where there are some ecclesiastical remains, traditionally known half a century ago as "the monastery" (R.I.A. xv. 107). But these appear to be of much earlier date than the twelfth century. More plausible is the conjecture of the Rev. Denis O'Donoghue, that the site is on another Church Island, in Lough Currane, near Waterville. On it are the ruins of a church which, in the opinion of Mr. P. J. Lynch, was built in the twelfth century (J.R.S.A.I. xxx. 159 f.). Malachy seems to have spent some time at Lismore before going to Iveragh.

[358] This sentence seems to imply that Malachy brought with him the Bangor community, or the greater part of it, and made a new home for it in Iveragh. If so the inference is obvious that up to 1127 Malachy resided at Bangor, and was still abbot.

[359] See §§ 9, 10.

[360] Acts ix. 28 (inexact quotation).

[361] Gen. xxx. 27.

[362] Luke i. 8.

[363] Cp. Luke xii. 37; xxii. 27.

[364] Cp. 1 Cor. xv. 10; 2 Cor. xi. 23.