The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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November 2, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

He was a big fan of Patrick

St. Benen was devoted to Ireland's patron saint

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Perhaps celebrities such as movie stars, pop singers or Green Bay Packer players become accustomed to fans. But for most of us, the idea of having a really devoted follower is probably more than we can comprehend -- or even want.

Yet that is exactly how St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, found his most able assistant.

While traveling from Gaul to Tara, Patrick spent a few days in Meath with the chieftain Sechnan. The chieftain and his family were converted by the teaching of Patrick.

Most particularly impressed was Sechnan's son, Benen (or Benignus in the Latin form). As Patrick slept, the young Benen scattered flowers over the saint. And when Patrick prepared to continue his journey, the boy wouldn't let go of his feet until Patrick agreed to take him along.

From there, Benen became a devoted disciple.

Benen was renowned for his easy-going nature, his gentleness, his good humor and for his singing. Indeed, he was known as "Patrick's psalmodist." It's not clear if he got that title for singing the psalms at worship or because he would sing Patrick's praises in song.

At any rate, Benen learned well from the example of Patrick and began the first evangelization effort in County Clare and County Kerry in western and southwestern Ireland and further north in the province of Connaught.

It is said that Patrick founded a church at Drumlease in the Diocese of Kilmore, and that Benen was placed in charge, a position he held for the next 20 years.

Patrick and Benen are credited with writing the code of law for the Irish church, called Senchus Mor. After Patrick's death, Benen became the chief bishop for all of Ireland.

There is a legend that Benen resigned his office in 460 and went to Glatsonbury to live as a hermit. He is said to have built a cell in which to live on the spot where his staff burst into leaf and bud.

That spot was at Feringmere, a swamp.

Historians say there's nothing to this legend about St. Benen, who died in 467, about six years after the death of St. Patrick.

In 1091, relics that some believed were those of St. Benen were moved from Feringmere to Glastonbury Abbey. We celebrate Benen's feast on Nov. 9.

While most of us will never have a fan like Benen or those of today's celebrities, probably all of us will be someone's mentor or model. Our example, therefore, should be worth following.

(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and Lives of the Saints.)

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