Saint of the Day|
If you think it's tough to be a bishop today, look at St. Malachy
This Irish saint wanted to be a hermit but ended up an archbishop instead
By Tony Staley
Our era is a tough time to be a bishop. Many people want the
bishop to do their bidding - even though some of these same people
often seem to have little use for bishops.
But as hard as a bishop's job is today, it was worse in at least
some areas in the 12th century when St. Malachy served as the
archbishop of Armagh, now in the Republic of Northern Ireland.
St. Malachy, a teacher's son, was born at Armagh in 1095. After
his parents death, he became a hermit and was ordained at age 25
by St. Celsus. He continued his studies under Bp. St. Malchus of
Lismore and was named abbot of the former Bangor Abbey. When he
was 30, Malachy became Bishop of Connor, which he administered
from Bangor Abbey.
When a Norse invasion drove him and his monks to Lismore, they
started a monastery at Iveragh, Kerry. In 1129, the dying St.
Celsus appointed Malachy to succeed him as Archbishop of Armagh
(the primatial see and the one tradition says St. Patrick
occupied). But Celsus' family had other ideas and named a cousin,
Murtagh, to succeed Celsus to continue the family line as
Malachy refused to become the archbishop for three years until
ordered to do so by Rome. But he didn't enter Armagh until 1134
when Murtagh died after naming Celsus' brother, Niall, as his
Armed conflict broke out between followers of Malachy and Niall.
Malachy managed to secure the cathedral, but Niall fled with the
Book of Armagh and St. Patrick's crozier. Eventually, Malachy
recovered these two relics and became the uncontested archbishop.
That done, he resigned in 1137 and returned to Connor, which he
divided into the Dioceses of Connor and Down. As Bishop of Down,
he started a monastery on the ruins of Bangor.
Two years later, on a pilgrimage to Rome, he met St. Bernard of
Clairvaux and asked to become a Trappist as his abbey. Instead,
Pope Innocent II named Malachy his ambassador to Ireland.
Malachy returned to Ireland in 1142 and founded Mellifont Abbey
with four of his companions who had joined the Trappists. In 1148,
he again set off for Rome. He again stopped at Clairvaux to visit
St. Bernard and died there on Nov. 2.
St. Bernard proclaimed Malachy a saint at his funeral Mass. Pope
Innocent III agreed in 1190, making Malachy the first Irish saint
named by a pope. We celebrate Malachy's feast day on Nov. 3.
Malachy is remembered as one of the greatest Irish saints,
responsible for unifying the Irish clergy, restoring church
discipline, replacing Celtic practices with canon law reforms of
Pope Gregory VII, reviving religious practice and restoring
morality. He also was known for his humility, determination and
ability to perform miracles.
Today, many people know of Malachy because of a list attributed to
him that predicted the identities of popes from Celestine II "to
the end of the world." Most scholars believe the list to be a late
16th century forgery.
Sources: Dictionary of Saints and Voices of the Saints.