Yesterday we remembered Ireland’s great St. Patrick. And, if you don’t mind, today I’d like your help in remembering Finian, a saint who did as much as Patrick for Ireland and the world.
Finian came along in the first half of the Fifth Century when Rome’s civilization had expired, and when bears were roving free all over Europe. Finian, on a mission to save our civilization, left an aged Patrick, and won admittance at a monastery in Wales.It was a place that boasted a fund of sheepskin manuscripts of the Scriptures and of the Western World’s best literature.
I have no idea of how Finian enlisted young men to raise the sheep and to copy the texts, but as other wild men from Scandinavia were beating down the walls of that monastery in Wales, Finian escaped to Ireland with his priceless trove of manuscripts.
In 510, the year Benedict was founding his monastery at Mount Casino, Finian set up his monastery and scriptorium at Clonard in Meath. (With all communications gone, Finian and Benedict might not have head of each other.)
In Ireland, Finian again took to enlisting young men for raising sheep and for copying manuscripts on the sheepskins.They were preserving the Bible and Latin and Greek literature for he world. Then, as the monastery of Clonard matured, it sent out monks to found monasteries throughout western and southern Ireland.
In 1980 I flew to Ireland and rented a car for looking around by myself. One day I stopped at the church in a town called Neenagh where I discovered an amazing set of church windows. They were dedicated to St. Columba and St. Brendan, but also to Saints Ciaran and Laisren, and others I’d never heard of.