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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
March 15, 2002 Issue

Cook voted off the island

St. Enda went from military to marriage to island before finding
his selected role


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

St. Enda

When: died c. 530

Where: Ireland

What: Abbot and founder of many monasteries

Feast: March 21

Some of the best stories we have about saints come from the Irish.

Take, for example, St. Enda who, as a young man, was a mighty soldier in 6th century Ireland. Then his sister convinced him to give up the military life, settle down and get married.

Enda agreed and all looked well. But before they could marry, his fiancée was found dead. So Enda decided to become a monk. He made a pilgrimage to Rome where he was ordained.

When he returned to Ireland, Enda went to Whithorn, a monastery at Galloway founded by St. Ninian.

Next, he went to Drogheda and built churches on both sides of the River Boyne. The river, northwest of Dublin, runs near where St. Patrick first began winning over pagans in Ireland. It's also the site of the historic Battle of the Boyne on July 11, 1690, when the Catholic King James II lost to William III, a Protestant, thus giving Protestants control of Ireland.

But that was more than 11 centuries away.

After founding the churches along the Boyne, Enda convinced his brother-in-law, King Oengus of Munster, to give him the island of Aran off the west coast of Ireland. At first, Oengus resisted because he wanted Enda to pick better land nearer to them. But Enda persisted.

On the island, accompanied by a group of followers, he built the monastery of Killeaney. Although his monks led an austere life, others followed and he built 10 other smaller monasteries on the island for all of them to live.

One legend says that every night Enda would put a monk in a wicker canoe and push it out into the water. If the monk didn't get wet it meant he was free from sin. Most were said to have passed the test, but one night, the cook came out wet and then admitted to adding some food to his portion. Enda banished him from the island, telling him, "There is no room here for a thief; I will not permit this at all."

Because of all the monasteries St. Enda founded, he and St. Finnian of Clonard are called the founders of Irish monasticism.

How much of the story of St. Enda is true? It's hard to say, given that the events occurred long ago and the historical truth seems to be lost in the legendary mists of the island. But they still contain larger truths about him and his calls to do God's will and the need for people to have such legends, as we see in our own stories about George Washington, Davy Crockett or Paul Bunyon.


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

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