Tuesday, 12 July 2016

St. Colga, Lector of Clonmacnoise - I

From O’Hanlon’s, Lives of the Irish Saints, Vol. 2, pps. 249ff., 20th January, Article VIII.

(Part I - Early Life)

St. Colga, or Colcho, Surnamed the Wise, Lector of Clonmacnoise, King's County. [Eighth Century.] Improvement in religious life and training depends much on the frequent presence of holy bishops and pastors, in the schools and religious institutes, under their immediate care. This ensures educational efficiency, and blesses the house of education, even when the faith of pupils is in no way perilled. His frequent presence impresses, not alone on youth, but even on their parents, the importance of that business in which they are engaged. To this, the purity and innocence of children are mainly to be attributed, while such religious teaching and example exercise beneficial influences during after life. (1) At the 20th of February, Colgan has illustrated such particulars as are known, regarding the present holy man.(2) These he has drawn from various sources. The Bollandists have simply a brief notice, in which they state, that only in the Irish fasti do they find him commemorated, as one of the saints.(3) In Irish, we are told, the name is written Coelchu; and, by some writers, it is rendered into Cogius, Colcius, Colcus,(4) Colcanus, Colchonus and Colganus. By Colgan, the denomination is thought to be derived from the Irish word, coel, "thin," or "slender," and cu, "a grey-hound," or " a wolf."(5) More generally Coelchu or Colgchu is rendered Colgu or Colga.(6_ This holy man was born, as seems most probable, after the beginning of the eighth century. He seems, from the family name given him, to have been of the Ui Eathach Mumhan race.(7) Yet, his pedigree has not been more exactly traced, than we find it briefly noted, in our Martyrologies and Annals. In an age of learning and piety, St. Colga was most distinguished among the holy men of Ireland. He was probably educated at Clonmacnoise. It was with him St. Paul the Apostle came to converse, according to the legend, in a human form, and to help him on in his road. St. Paul is said to have given him particular lights, and to have taken his satchel of books, at Moin tirean air,(8) while, it was he that pleaded for this saint, to preside over the great school of Cluain-mac-nois.(9) It is doubtful, if amidst the ruins and ancient remains of this once celebrated place, any traces of that college can now be found.(10) It is stated, likewise, that a great theological question was here in controversy, among the theologians; and doctors of another place held an opinion, differing from that of our saint. Again, St. Paul is said to have appeared in person, to have taken part with our saint, and to have spoken to this effect before the seniors assembled.(11) Soon afterwards, St. Colcho was elected to preside, as Rector of the great school, at Clonmacnoise; and he was recognised as the chief teacher there, while shining pre-eminently a lamp of learning and of sanctity.

Notes in O'Hanlon
(1) See “Ecclesiastical Meditations suitable for Priests on the Missions and Students in Diocesan Seminaries." by a Catholic Clergyman. On the Visitation of the Schools, sect. 2, pp. 130, 131.
(2) See "Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae," xx. Februarii. De S. Colcho, sive Colga, Sapiente, pp. 378 to 380.
(3) See "Acta Sanctorum," tomus iii., Februarii xx. Among the pretermitted saints, p. 169.
(4) Thus is he styled, in Albinus' Epistle.
(5) A secondary meaning is sought for the name in Colg, which signifies, "a sword," or metaphorically, "a fierce look," or "cruelty."
(6) See ''Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae," xx. Februarii, n. 2, p. 379.
(7) This was the tribe name of the O'Mahonys and O'Donoghoes, in South Minister. See Dr. O'Donovan's "Annals of the Four Masters," vol. ii., nn. (a, r), pp. 772, 775.
(8) This place does not seem to be identified.
(9) See Rev. Drs. Todd's and Reeves "Martyrology of Donegal," pp. 54, 554.
(10) The accompanying illustration, from a photograph, taken by Frederick II. Mares, and drawn on the wood by William K. Wakeman, was engraved by Mrs. Millard.
(11) In a work, known as the "Book of Clonmacnoise,” and in other Manuscripts belonging to Colgan, the foregoing statements were contained while tracts attributed to Colga were also in his possession. See "Acta Sanctorum Hibernias," xx. Feb- l6 Then follow these words : " Sapientis cap. ii., hi., iv., and nn. 6, 9, pp. 378, 379.

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