Tuesday, 26 May 2015
St. Ita's visit to Clonmacnoise & devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
From O’Hanlon's, Lives of the Irish Saints, Vol. 1, pps. 210-11, 15th January, Chapter III.
On a great festival, St. Ita besought the Almighty to grant a favour, namely — that on a particular holiday, she might receive Christ's Body and Blood from the hands of a most worthy priest.(16) Through Divine bounty, she was immediately conducted to Clonmacnoise city,(17) where at a great distance, and according to her desire, she had the happiness of receiving Holy Communion. This was administered by a venerable priest. But no person had seen the virgin travelling on her way to Clonmacnoise, nor returning therefrom; nor had any person been witness to her reception of Holy Communion. St. Ita returned to her nuns, on the same day she had received Communion, in that unusual manner. Meantime, an angel appeared and related to a certain holy and aged man at Clonmacnoise, all that had happened. Wherefore, that priest who had offered up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,(18) with other clerics, undertook a long journey to St. Ita, that they might obtain her blessing. During this journey, one of them had been deprived of sight owing to some accident. But the pious pilgrims consoled themselves with an expectation that the holy abbess should entreat our Lord on their arrival, and that by her prayers the blind man must be restored to sight. Ita had a miraculous manifestation of their approach, and she was enabled to relate their expected visit to her religious sisters. The servant of God received her guests with great joy; and through her instrumentality, sight was restored to that monk who had met with the accident. St. Ita then requested that priest from whom she had received Communion at Clonmacnoise, to sing Mass in her presence; and she ordered her spiritual daughters to bestow upon him those vestments he wore during immolation of the holy Victim. However, he refused to accept them, saying, that his superior, the Abbot Eneas,(19) had commanded them to receive nothing from Ita, but the favour of her prayers. St. Ita then said, “Your holy abbot, Eneas, will not be displeased, if you accept this gift from me; and I shall give you a token to this effect, in an anecdote I am about to relate. On a certain occasion he visited the monastery of the holy virgin Chinreacha Dercain,(20) who asked permission to wash his feet, to which request he assented. Then this holy virgin, Chinreacha, washed the feet of Eneas, and she wiped them with a towel; as God is now my witness, I held a part of that towel, and also helped to wipe your abbot's feet. When reminded of this circumstance, he shall be pleased, and he will joyfully accept my present.” While the visitors received her gift, they also admired the holy virgin's piety. Having obtained her blessing, they returned to Clonmacnoise. All that St. Ita had spoken was afterwards verified.(21)
(16) This passage is worthy of notice, as showing belief of the early Irish Church in the Catholic dogma regarding the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist.
(17) In noticing the exact location of Clonmacnoise on the banks of the Shannon, Colgan adds, that in his own time it was an episcopal see. “Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae,” xv. Januarii, n. 18, p. 72. Clonmacnoise must have been a considerable place, when St. Ita’s Life had been written.
(18) The words in the Life are, “Ille autem sacerdos qui immolavit hostiam, quam suscepit S. Ita,” &c.
(19) St. Oena, Aengus or Aengussius, Abbot of Clonmacnoise, is venerated on the 20th of January, where further notices of him may be found.
(20) Not being able to find any female saint named Kenrecha, either in our ancient Martyrologies or in other records, for a length of time, Congan was under the impression that Kenrecha was erroneously inserted for Kunera. But, having examined this matter more attentively, he thought the saint here spoken of must have been identical with St. Kairecha, called also Dercain. In addition to this latter cognomen leaves the question beyond doubt; especially when we take into consideration a strong affinity between the names themselves. According to the “Martyrologies of Tallagh,” Marianus O’Gorman and Maguire, St. Cairecha was venerated on the 9th of February. See “Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae,” xv. Januarii, n. 20, p. 72.
(21) See Colgan’s “Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae,” xv. Januarii. Vita S. Itae, cap. xvii., p. 68.