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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

September 12

St. Albeus, Bishop and Confessor in Ireland

THIS saint, who is honoured as chief patron of Munster, one of the four provinces of Ireland, was converted by certain Britons, and had travelled to Rome before the arrival of St. Patrick among the Irish. After his return home, he became the disciple and fellow-labourer of that great apostle of his country, and being ordained by him first archbishop of Munster, fixed his see at Emly, 1 which has been long since removed to Cashel. With such a commanding authority did this apostolic man deliver the dictates of eternal wisdom to a rude and barbarous people, such was the force with which, both by words and example, he set forth the sanctity of the divine law, and so evident were the miracles with which he confirmed the heavenly truths which he preached, that the sacred doctrine easily made its way to the hearts of his hearers; and he not only brought over an incredible multitude to the faith of Christ, but infused into many the perfect spirit of the gospel, possessing a wonderful art of making men not only Christians but saints. King Engus having bestowed on him the isle of Arran, he founded in it a great monastery, which was so famous for the sanctity of its inhabitants, that from them the island was long called Arran of Saints. The rule which St. Albeus drew up for them is still extant in old Irish, as Bishop Usher testifies. Though zeal for the divine honour and charity for the souls of others fixed him in the world, he was always careful, by habitual recollection and frequent retreats, to nourish in his own soul the pure love of heavenly things, and to live always in a very familiar and intimate acquaintance with himself, and in the daily habitual practice of the most interior perfect virtues. In his old age it was his earnest desire to commit to others the care of his dear flock, that he might be allowed to prepare himself in the exercises of holy solitude for his great change. For this purpose he begged that he might be suffered to retire to Thule, the remotest country towards the northern pole that was known to the ancients, which seems to have been Shetland, or, according to some, Iceland, or some part of Greenland; but the king guarded the ports to prevent his flight, and the saint died amidst the labours of his charge in 525, as the Ulster and Inisfallen Annals testify. 2 See Usher, Antiquit. p. 409; Sir James Ware, Antiquit. Hibern. p. 319, and on the bishops of Ireland, with additions, by Harris, p. 491.  1
Note 1. The city of Emly was plundered by barbarians in 1122, and the mitre and principal relics of St. Albeus dispersed or burnt. The metropolitical dignity had been transferred to the city of Cashel about one hundred years before this; but the episcopal see of Emly still subsisted, till, in 1568, it was united to that of Cashel, the towns being only twelve miles distant. Emly is long since dwindled into an inconsiderable village. [back]
Note 2. The death of St. Albeus is placed (less probably) by the four masters in 541. Even by the first account he must have died in the hundred and sixty-fifth year of his age, as Harris observes. There must, therefore, be a mistake in the date of this saint’s death. Probably chronologers have confounded him with Albeus of Seanchua, who died in 545. [back]