Tuesday, 30 December 2014

St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh, by H. J. Lawlor. Part 4.

IV.—St. Malachy's Part in The Reformation

It is not possible, within the limits of this Introduction, to follow the later stages of the Reformation movement in detail. In the present section I confine myself to the part which St. Malachy played in its development.

Malachy was born at Armagh in 1095. He was therefore a mere boy when the Synod of Rathbreasail met. At the dawn of his manhood he became the disciple of the recluse Imar O'Hagan. Imar was in sympathy with the aims of the reformers, and it was probably through his influence that Malachy became imbued with their principles. He soon attracted the notice of Cellach, and was by him ordained deacon. He was advanced to the priesthood about 1119. Shortly afterwards Cellach made the young priest his vicar. For the next year or two it was Malachy's duty to administer the diocese of Armagh; and he did so in the most effective—indeed revolutionary—fashion. He evidently let no man despise his youth. His purpose, as his biographer tells us, was "to root out barbarous rites, to plant the rites of the Church." "He established in all the churches the apostolic sanctions and the decrees of the holy fathers, and especially the customs of the Holy Roman Church." He introduced the Roman method of chanting the services of the canonical hours. "He instituted anew Confession, Confirmation, the Marriage contract, of all of which those over whom he was placed were either ignorant or negligent." In a word, Malachy showed himself an ardent reformer.71

One wonders how, even with the assistance of Cellach and Imar, a young man who had never left Armagh could have already become sufficiently acquainted with the usages of other churches to carry out these sweeping measures. Perhaps his zeal was not always according to knowledge. But he soon became aware of his limitations, and determined to seek instruction. With the consent of Cellach and Imar he betook himself to Malchus, who had by this time retired from the archbishopric of Cashel and was settled at Lismore. There Malachy spent three years. During that period he doubtless increased his knowledge of Roman customs and principles. But he did more. Cormac MacCarthy, son of the king of Desmond, was then a refugee in the monastery of Malchus. Between Cormac and Malachy there grew up a friendship, which proved in later years of much advantage to the reforming cause.72

But at length Malachy's presence was urgently needed in the north, and he was recalled by Cellach and Imar. What had happened was this. The coarb of St. Comgall at Bangor, the principal religious site in the north-east of Ireland, had lately died. Since he ended his days at Lismore, it may be assumed that he was a friend of Malchus, and of the movement with which he was identified. At any rate his successor, who was Malachy's uncle, expressed his willingness to surrender his office and the site of the monastery to his nephew.73 Here was an opportunity to carry into effect one of the canons of Rathbreasail, which had hitherto been a dead letter, by establishing the diocese of Connor. Cellach, duly elected coarb of Patrick, and consecrated bishop, had no doubt been able to organize the diocese of Armagh in accordance with the Rathbreasail scheme. In like manner such a man as Malachy, enjoying the prestige which belonged to the coarb of Comgall, if consecrated bishop, would probably succeed in organizing the diocese of Connor. So in 1124 Malachy journeyed to Bangor, was installed as abbot, and was made bishop by Cellach.74 He administered his diocese with the same vigour which had already characterized his work at Armagh. But it is interesting to observe how closely he conformed to the old Irish type of bishop, in spite of his Roman proclivities. At heart he was far less bishop of Connor than coarb of Comgall, abbot of Bangor. Indeed, in strictness, he had no right to the title "bishop of Connor"; for Connor was not his see. He made Bangor his headquarters.75 Doubtless Malachy preferred Bangor to the nominal see, because it was consecrated by centuries of sacred memories, and because as yet he could not place the office of bishop above that of abbot. He ruled his great newly formed diocese, or as much of it as he succeeded in ruling, from its remotest corner on the sea shore, as Aidan ruled Northumbria from Holy Island. There he lived among his brethren, of whom he gathered a great company. There was no provision for his mensa, for he was "a lover of poverty." He practised austere asceticism. Yet he was an active missionary. He travelled incessantly through the diocese, but always on foot, visiting the towns, and roaming about the country parts, surrounded by his disciples. He preached to the people whom he met on his way.76 Nothing could be more unlike a medieval bishop of the ordinary kind. At every point we are reminded of the labours of Aidan and Ceadd and Cedd as they are described by Bede. But we may be sure that it was precisely because Malachy was coarb of Bangor, because he lived according to the ancient Irish ideal of sainthood, that he secured the obedience of the people of his diocese.

In such work as I have mentioned Malachy was engaged from 1124 to 1127. In the latter year he was driven out of Bangor by Conor O'Loughlin, king of the north of Ireland, and a second time betook himself to Lismore. There he again met Cormac MacCarthy, for that unfortunate prince was once more taking sanctuary with Malchus. He had succeeded a little while before to the throne of Desmond, but had been driven out by Turlough O'Conor, who made his brother king in his stead. But after a few months, persuaded by the entreaties of Malchus and Malachy, and aided by the arms of Conor O'Brien, king of Thomond, a nephew of Murtough, Anselm's correspondent, he made a successful attempt to regain his kingdom.77 Then Malachy moved on to Iveragh in the County Kerry, and there, under Cormac's patronage, he founded a new monastery for his community.78 Once again Cormac has friendly intercourse with Malachy, and another O'Brien is on good terms with the reformers.

It was at Iveragh, two years later, that Malachy received news of the death of Archbishop Cellach.79 It was an announcement which must have caused great anxiety to him and his friends. Who was to succeed to the primacy?

The importance of the question will become manifest if we recall the progress which had already been made at Armagh, and what still remained to be done. When Cellach was elected abbot in 1105, and in the following year was consecrated bishop, a great point had been gained. For the first time for 150 years the church of Armagh had a bishop as its ruler. We may suppose that Cellach soon organized the diocese, the limits of which were fixed at Rathbreasail. But whatever Gilbert or Malchus might hold as to the source of his authority, we cannot imagine that the members of the Church in the diocese based their allegiance to him on any other ground than the fact that he was their abbot and the coarb of Patrick. That he was a bishop added nothing, in their view, to his claims. Moreover Cellach belonged to the family which had long supplied Armagh with abbots. The abuse of hereditary succession had not disappeared with his appointment.80 If his successor was chosen in the time-honoured way, a member of the coarbial family would certainly be selected, and in all probability he would be a layman, who would not accept episcopal orders. In a word, all that had been achieved by the reformers at the most important ecclesiastical centre in Ireland would be undone.

Cellach had foreseen this, and accordingly he determined to nominate Malachy as his successor. "With the authority of Patrick" he laid upon the nobles, and especially upon "the two kings of Munster," the obligation of securing that his wish should be carried into effect. The two kings who were thus charged with a difficult duty were Conor O'Brien, king of Thomond, the principal representative of the O'Briens, and Cormac MacCarthy, king of Desmond, Malachy's friend.

From Cellach's point of view the choice of a successor which he had made was a wise one. Malachy was as zealous a reformer as himself. He was a man of unusual ability and force of character. Besides, he was possessed of a personal charm which might in time disarm opposition. He was already a bishop; therefore, if he were once seated in the chair of Patrick, the question whether the new coarb should be consecrated would not arise. More important still, he was not of the coarbial stock; with his entry into the see the scandal of hereditary succession would come to an end.

But it was not to be expected that the appointment would be accepted without strong protest; and at the moment there seemed little prospect that the scheme of Cellach would attain fruition. There is no need to enter into the details of the fierce struggle that ensued. It is dealt with elsewhere.81 Suffice it to say that by 1137, with the aid of O'Brien and MacCarthy, and apparently with assistance also from Donough O'Carroll, king of Oriel, he was undisputed coarb of Patrick and archbishop of Armagh. The victory was won, and an immense stride had been made in the Reformation movement.

But Malachy had no mind to spend the rest of his life at Armagh. Five years before, as the condition of his entry into the fray, he had stipulated that as soon as he had been accepted as archbishop he should resign the see and return to his beloved Bangor. So in 1137 he nominated and consecrated Gelasius as his successor in the primacy, and "returned to his former parish, but not to Connor." Let me explain this enigmatical statement. Malachy had had some years' experience of the people of the diocese of Connor, whom St. Bernard gently describes as "not men but beasts." He had doubtless discovered that the district which it included could not be ruled by a single bishop. In fact it consisted of two tribal territories, Dál Araide in the north, and Ulaid in the south; and the two tribes which inhabited them were usually engaged in mutual war. He decided that it should be divided into two dioceses. He consecrated a bishop for Dál Araide, with his see at Connor, and himself resumed the oversight of Ulaid, with his see at Bangor.82 Thus originated the present dioceses of Down and Connor. In Malachy's time the boundary between them seems to have run west from Larne. In the course of centuries it has shifted further south.

This division was a direct violation of the letter of the ordinance of Rathbreasail; but it did not contravene its spirit. In the letter, which ignored the civil divisions of the country, the ordinance could not be obeyed. Malachy adopted a scheme which secured the permanent rule of diocesan bishops in the district.

Malachy was now, and continued to be till his death, bishop of Down, or more strictly of Bangor; in the current Irish phrase bishop of Ulaid. But his activities already extended beyond his diocese. Within the next two years he succeeded in establishing in actual fact another diocese which till now had existed only on paper. It was that which the Synod of Rathbreasail had called the diocese of Clogher, and which we know by the same name; but which for sixty years or more bore the name of the diocese of Oriel.

That we may understand his action let us return for a moment to the five Ulster dioceses as planned at Rathbreasail. In four of them regard was paid to tribal boundaries. The diocese of Raphoe corresponded to Tír Conaill, Derry to Tír Eoghain, Armagh to Oriel, while Connor comprehended the two territories of Dál Araide and Ulaid. The diocese of Clogher was of necessity the remainder of the province. If it coincided with a tribal district, that could only happen by chance. In fact it did not. It was much smaller than the other dioceses. It embraced only the present barony of Clogher in the county of Tyrone, and the portion of Fermanagh lying between it and the Erne waterway. It had within it no element of cohesion. It was most unlikely that it could ever constitute an ecclesiastical unit, governed by a bishop.

Nevertheless an attempt seems to have been made to consolidate it as a diocese a few years after Rathbreasail; as might have been expected, without success. A bishop of Clogher, who apparently had no diocese, died in 1135. He was succeeded by Christian O'Morgair, brother of Malachy. He was probably nominated and consecrated by his brother, who was then titular archbishop of Armagh. Now about this time Donough O'Carroll, king of Oriel, joined the ranks of the reformers, as we may suppose under the influence of Malachy. His kingdom included the little diocese of Clogher; but the main part of it consisted of the present counties of Monaghan and Louth. Accordingly a bold stroke of policy was conceived and carried out. The diocese of Clogher was enlarged so as to cover the greater part of O'Carroll's kingdom. For this purpose the archbishop of Armagh surrendered a large part of his diocese—the whole of Monaghan and Louth. Then Christian moved his see from Clogher to the spot now occupied by the village of Louth. Thus there was constituted a new diocese, which included the Rathbreasail diocese of Clogher, but was four times its size, and had its see at Louth. It was known as the diocese of Oriel. In all this we see plainly the hand of Malachy. Not long after the removal of the see Christian died, and Malachy selected and consecrated his successor, one Edan O'Kelly. O'Kelly had a long episcopate, from 1139 to 1182; and with the help of O'Carroll he organized his diocese, and gave it a cathedral at Louth with a chapter of Augustinian canons.83 Once again Malachy was the maker of a diocese; and once again, in the interest of stability, he transgressed the letter of the Rathbreasail canons, while fulfilling their spirit. It was not till after the coming of the Anglo-Normans that the see was brought back to Clogher. Subsequently the county of Louth reverted to Armagh, and the diocese extended to the west. About the year 1250 its boundaries came to be what they now are.84

In 1139, after settling the affairs of the diocese of Oriel, Malachy left Ireland on an important mission. It will be remembered that Gilbert had declared that no archbishop could exercise his functions till the Pope had sent him the pall. That was the current doctrine of the age. Now neither Cellach, nor Malachy, nor Gelasius, nor Malchus, nor his successor at Cashel, had received that ornament. They had therefore, in the strict sense, no right to the title of archbishop. Malachy resolved to make request to the Pope in person for palls for the two Irish metropolitans. So he set out from Bangor for Rome.85 Of his journey it is unnecessary to say anything here.86

At Rome Malachy was received by Pope Innocent II. with great honour. He confirmed the erection of the metropolitan see of Cashel. But he politely declined to grant the palls. They must be demanded, he said, by a council of the bishops, clergy and magnates; and then they would be given.

But if the Pope refused Malachy's request, he bestowed on him an office, the securing of which we may conjecture to have been one of the purposes of his visit to Rome, though St. Bernard does not say so. Gilbert, now old and infirm, had resigned the see of Limerick, and with it his legatine commission. Innocent made Malachy papal legate in his stead.87

Thus Malachy returned to Ireland, still bishop of Down indeed, but virtually chief prelate of the Irish Church. For the following eight years he laboured with zeal and vigour. St. Bernard unfortunately gives little information concerning the details of his administrative work as legate. But he relates one incident which suggests that in this period Malachy was instrumental in founding another diocese. He nominated and consecrated the first known bishop of Cork,88 not improbably with the intention that he should unite in his own person the two offices of coarb of Barre, founder of Cork, and diocesan bishop.

And in this connexion it is worth noticing that he was evidently on friendly terms with Nehemiah, the first known bishop of the neighbouring diocese of Cloyne.89 If that diocese was also founded by him he once again violated the letter of the Rathbreasail canons, for by them Cloyne was included in the diocese of Emly.

In 1148 Malachy convened a synod at Inispatrick, an island opposite Skerries, Co. Dublin. This synod demanded the palls in due form, and sent Malachy to obtain them. But he got no further on his journey than Clairvaux. There, after celebrating Mass on St. Luke's Day, he was taken ill of a fever; and there a fortnight later he died in the arms of St. Bernard, on All Souls' Day, 2nd November, 1148.90

Nevertheless the palls came. They were brought to Ireland by a legate specially commissioned by Pope Eugenius III., John Paparo, cardinal priest of St. Laurence. A synod was held at Kells to receive them in March 1152,91 of which the joint presidents were Paparo, as legatus a latere, and Christian, first abbot of Mellifont, and now bishop of Lismore, who had lately succeeded Malachy as legatus natus.

Of this synod Keating gives a short account, abridged from the Annals of Clonenagh,92 from which he had also derived his knowledge of the proceedings at Rathbreasail. He preserves a list of the bishops who attended. It includes twenty-two names, if we count two vicars who represented absent bishops. There were besides, as Keating informs us, five bishops-elect. And there was certainly one bishop of a diocese who was neither present nor represented, Edan O'Kelly, bishop of Oriel. So it appears that in 1152 there were at least twenty-eight dioceses in Ireland—a number considerably larger than was contemplated at Rathbreasail. The increase in number is partly accounted for by the presence of the bishop of the recently formed diocese of Kilmore, the division of the diocese of Connor into Connor and Down, and, a most striking addition, the inclusion of Gregory, bishop of Dublin, among the assembled prelates. It is remarkable that the bishop of Kells is not mentioned, though the synod was held in his own city. How was the bishop of Dublin induced to throw in his lot with the Irish Church? We shall see in a moment.

Much business was transacted at this Synod. But that which concerns us most nearly is the giving of the palls. Cardinal Paparo brought the Irish bishops more than they had asked for; more indeed than they desired. He presented, not two palls but four, Dublin and Tuam, as well as Armagh and Cashel, being recognized as archiepiscopal sees. This excessive generosity caused much displeasure among the Irish bishops. "For Ireland," says Keating, apparently paraphrasing the Annals of Clonenagh, "thought it enough to have a pall in the church of Armagh and a pall in Cashel; and particularly it was in spite of the church of Armagh and the church of Down that the other palls were given." The cause of this discontent is not far to seek. The chief gravamen no doubt was that Dublin was included among the four. The constant friction which had subsisted for many years between the diocese of Dublin and the Irish Church sufficiently explains the indignation of the archbishop of Armagh, aggravated by the fact that the creation of new archbishops imposed a limit upon his authority. It also enables us to understand why his displeasure was shared by the Irish generally. That a see whose bishops had behaved so haughtily in the past should, at the very moment of its entrance into the Irish Church, receive so signal an honour, long denied to Armagh and Cashel, and that in the person of its bishop it should be given jurisdiction over bishops whom till now it had treated with contempt, could not but be regarded as unreasonable, or even insulting. But on the other hand, recalling the early history of the Church in Dublin, we can comprehend why, in spite of all this, special favour was bestowed upon it. Dublin, as we have seen, was a not too submissive suffragan of Canterbury. Its ambition was that its bishop should have the status of a metropolitan. The opportunity had come for gratifying its desire, and at the same time bringing it under the Irish ecclesiastical régime. The pall at once separated it from Canterbury and united it with Ireland. It was the price paid for its submission to the Primacy of Armagh. Gregory therefore became archbishop of Dublin, and had the right—which his predecessor had long before illegally assumed—to have the cross carried before him. With the gift of the pall Paparo bestowed upon him "the principal part of the bishopric of Glendalough as his diocese," promising him the remainder on the death of the bishop who then ruled it. All this was done, we are told, because it was fitting that the place "in which from ancient time had been the royal seat and head of Ireland," should be made a metropolitan see.93

There was at last one Church in Ireland, which embraced within it not only the Celtic parts of the island, but all the Danish dioceses as well. And the whole Church was ruled by the bishops. The Reformation may not have been complete in every detail—there was indeed much left for the Anglo-Normans to do—but the Synod of Kells had set the crown on the work of the Irish reformers. And this consummation was mainly due to the wisdom and the untiring zeal of St. Malachy of Armagh.

A few words more will suffice to complete this too lengthy introduction. The Life of Malachy was certainly written before the Synod of Kells met in March 1152; for Christian, who attended the Synod as bishop of Lismore, is spoken of in the Life as abbot of Mellifont.94 Its earliest possible date is a couple of months after Malachy's death. The ignorance displayed in § 6995 of the movements of the Pope in 1148 is so inexplicable on the assumption of a later date that it may be assigned to January 1149.96 In the following translation the text printed by de Backer97 is used, with the exception of a few sentences which have been emended. It does not differ to any great extent from that of Mabillon.98 Following de Backer I have divided the text into chapters, in accordance with the MSS.; but Mabillon's sections have been retained, as more convenient for reference, the numbers of de Backer's sections being added within brackets.

By way of illustration four letters of St. Bernard and his two sermons on St. Malachy have been added. They are translated from Mabillon's edition,99 with some corrections. The dates of these documents are discussed below.100

[71] Life, §§ 4-7.

[72] Life, §§ 8 f., and p. 21, note 1.

[73] See Life, § 12, and p. 27, note 1.

[74] See Life, § 16, and notes.

[75] p. 33, note 1.

[76] Life, §§ 16, 17.

[77] See Life, § 9, and notes.

[78] Life, § 18.

[79] Ibid. § 19.

[80] See p. xv, and Additional Note B.

[81] Life, §§ 20-31, with notes, and Additional Note C.

[82] §§ 31, 32.

[83] See Life, § 34 and notes.

[84] For a fuller account of the beginnings of the diocese of Clogher see L.A.J. vol. iv. pp. 129-159. To the reasons there given for believing that Christian transferred the see from Clogher to Louth should be added the fact that in Tundale (p. 54) he is called Lugdunensis episcopus.

[85] Life, §§ 33, 34.

[86] Ibid. §§ 35-41. The reader may be reminded, however, that the two visits of Malachy to Clairvaux, in the course of this journey, produced the friendship between him and St. Bernard, which had its twofold issue in the composition of the important documents included in this volume, and the introduction of the Cistercian Order into Ireland.

[87] Life, § 38.

[88] § 51.

[89] § 47.

[90] Life, §§ 67-75.

[91] There was no unnecessary delay on the part of the Pope in sending the palls. After the death of Malachy a deputation was sent from Ireland to Rome to demand them. Paparo set out to confer them, and reached England in 1150; but King Stephen would not allow him to proceed to Ireland except on terms which he could not accept. (John of Hexham, p. 326; Historia Pontificalis in M.G.H. xx. 539 f.)

[92] Vol. iii. p. 313 ff.

[93] See Letter of Pope Innocent III. to Henry of London, 6 Oct. 1216, in Crede Mihi (ed. Gilbert), p. 11.

[94] §§ 14, 52.

[95] See p. 122, note 1.

[96] Cp. R.I.A. xxxv. 258 ff. This conclusion is corroborated by Tundale's Vision, which seems to have been written early in 1149 (see Friedel and Meyer, La Vision de Tondale, 1907, pp. vi-xii; Rev. Celt. xxviii. 411). The writer speaks of the Life of Malachy as already written, and in course of transcription (Tundale, p. 5, 'cuius uitam ... Bernhardus ... transscribit'). He may have derived his erroneous statement (ibid.) that Pope Eugenius went to Rome in the year of Malachy's death from St. Bernard: see p. 122, note 1.

[97] AA.SS., Nov., xii. 1., 143-146.

[98] Sancti Bernardi Abbatis Claræ-vallensis Opera Omnia, ed. J. Mabillon, 1839, vol. i. 2, cols. 1465-1524. Reprinted P.L. clxxxii. 1073-1118.

[99] Op. cit. i. 2, 2221-2231; i. 1, 341, 356, 357, 374; reprinted in P.L. clxxxiii. 481-490; clxxxii. 545 f., 558 f., 579 f.

[100] See notes on pp. 131, 133 f., 137, 141, 157.