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

December 12

St. Finian, or Finan, Bishop of Cluain-Irard, or Clonard, Confessor in Ireland

AMONG the primitive teachers of the Irish church the name of St. Finian 1 is one of the most famous next to that of St. Patrick. He was a native of Leinster, was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of St. Patrick, and out of an ardent desire of making greater progress passed over into Wales, where he conversed with St. David, St. Gildas, and St. Cathmael, three eminent British saints. After having remained thirty years in Britain, about the year 520 he returned into Ireland, excellently qualified by sanctity and sacred learning to restore the spirit of religion among his countrymen, which had begun to decay. Like a loud trumpet sounding from heaven, he roused the sloth and insensibility of the lukewarm and softened the hearts that were most hardened, and had been long immersed in worldly business and pleasure. To propagate the work of God, St. Finian established several monasteries and schools; the chief of which was Clonard, in Meath, which was the saint’s principal residence. Out of his school came several of the principal saints and doctors of Ireland, as Kiaran the Younger, Columkille, Columba, the son of Crimthain, the two Brendans, Laserian, Canicus or Kenny, Ruadan, and others.  1
  St. Finian was chosen and consecrated bishop of Clonard. 2 The great monastery which he erected at Clonard was a famous seminary of sacred learning. 3 St. Finian, in the love of his flock, and his zeal for their salvation, equalled the Basils and the Chrysostoms, was infirm with the infirm, and wept with those who wept. He healed the souls, and often also the bodies of those who applied to him. His food was bread and herbs, his drink water, and his bed the ground, with a stone for his pillow. He departed to our Lord on the 12th of December, in 552, according to the Inisfallen Annals, quoted by Usher, but according to others in 564. See his life, published by Colgan, on the 23rd of February. Usher, Ant. Brit. c. 18, p. 493, and Index Chronol. p. 531. Sir James Ware, Ant. Hib. c. 29, de Eccl. Cathedr. p. 291, and on the Bishops, p. 136. See also the note on St. Ultan, 4th of September.  2
Note 1. Fin, in Irish, signifies white, as does Gwin or Win in Welsh. See Usher, p. 494. [back]
Note 2. Simon Rochfort, the last bishop of Clonard, translated this see to a monastery of Regular Canons, which he built at Trim in honour of SS. Peter and Paul, in 1209. He and his predecessor, Eugenius, first took the title of bishops of Meath; to which two other sees were united about the thirteenth century, namely, that of Kenlis or Kells, where St. Columkille founded his monastery of Cells about the year 550, and that of Duleek, anciently called Damliag, which bishopric was founded by St. Cianan, who is honoured on the 24th of November. [back]
Note 3. The monastery of Regular Canons of St. Austin, which subsisted at Clonard till the dissolution of religious houses, was erected upon the ruins of St. Finian’s abbey, in honour of St. Peter, by Walter Lacy, lord of Trim, son of the ambitious Hugh Lacy, who having conquered this country was made lord of Meath by Henry II. but afterwards beheaded by one O’Meey, an Irishman, as he and O’Meey were measuring the fosse which surrounded the castle then erecting at Dairmagh, now called Durrow. See Littleton’s Henry II. and Harris’s Hib. [back]