Dr. Comerford includes the following information on Saint Ninian of Cloncurry, in the modern Parish of Kilcock:
"The Saint chiefly connected with Cloncurry is Ninine, or Monine, whose feast is marked in our calendars at the 16th September. Thus the Martyrology of Tallaght has the entry: "Monenn Cluana Conaire;" and the Martyrology of Donegal, "Maoineann, Bishop of Cluain Conaire, in the north of Ui Failan." Some authorities suppose this saint to have been Ninidh Lamoidhan, or of the pure hand, who attended Saint Brigid when dying; but the weight of authority seems to be in favour of St. Ninian, so celebrated as a missioner in Scotland, in the fourth century; and Archbishop Moran unhesitatingly adopts this opinion. His Grace thus writes in his Irish Saints in Great Britain, p.133:
"It was amongst the Gallgaedhels of Galloway that another ornament of the British Church, St. Ninian, was born, about the year 360. Of this family only two traditions have come down to us: one is the tradition of Scotland, that Ninian was nephew of St. Martin of Tours; the other is a tradition of the Irish Church, preserved by Ussher, that it was in compliance with a request made to him by his mother, that, in his old age, he set out to associate himself with St. Palladius in the conversion of Ireland. We might, perhaps, from this fact, conjecture that she herself belonged to the Gaelic race. Being arrived at the age of manhood, Ninian proceeded to Rome. Alaric had not as yet knocked at the gates of the devoted city. In the full majesty of imperial sway, it was still at the golden height of its wealth and material splendour; and its palaces and forums and public monuments displayed all the profusion of magnificence with which the plunder of the world had enriched the proud mistress of nations. Pope Damasus then ruled the Church of God, and, with the blessings of peace, religion smiled on the seven hills. Silver and gold and precious marbles enriched the Basilicas devoted to Christian worship; the shrines of the martyrs were adorned with the most costly gems; the learning of St. Jerome and St. Ambrose added lustre to its sacred teaching, and Rome was, even then, not only the source of spiritual authority, but also the great centre of religious life, and of the love and affection of the Christian world.
For about twenty years St. Ninian lived in Rome... Being at length consecrated Bishop, he set out for his native Galloway, to merit by his sanctity and missionary labours the title of its chief apostle. On his homeward journey he remained for some time at Marmoutiers, to enjoy the heavenly lessons of wisdom of its great founder, St. Martin of Tours; and Aelred, in his Life of our Saint, mentions that he brought with him from the monastery some skilled masons, by whose aid he desired to erect in his native district a Church on the model of those which he had seen in Italy and France. He chose for its site a sheltered spot on the southern promontory of Galloway… The Church was built of chiselled stone, a style of edifice, as Bede states, till then unknown in N. Britain, from which circumstance it became known as Candida Casa, and in the British language it was called Whitherne, or the White House, which name, Whithorn, it retains to the present day. We learn from Ven. Bede that whilst engaged in erecting this Church, Ninian received intelligence of St. Martin’s death, and so convinced was he of the sanctity of that holy man, that he at once chose him for his patron in his missionary labours, and dedicated the Church to God under his invocation. St. Martin most probably died in the year 402. I need not dwell upon the apostolic labours of St. Ninian. He penetrated into the Pictish territory far beyond the British frontier, and, at his preaching, as Bede attests, many of the southern Picts forsook idolatry and became fervent children of God. He was remarkable, like most of the early Celtic Saints, for his austerities… Like St. Martin, he loved to withdraw himself, from time to time, from the busy world in which he laboured, to renew his spirit by meditation on heavenly things. The cave is still pointed out on the sea-shore of Wigtonshire in Galloway, whither he was wont to retire. It is placed high up in a white lofty precipitous range of rocks, against which the impetuous waves of the stormy Irish sea unceasingly spend their fury. The cave is open to the winds and spray, but runs inward about twenty feet. At the mouth it is twelve feet high and about as many in breadth, and it is only accessible by climbing from rock to rock."
The death of this saint is marked by Scottish writers as having occurred in the year 432; his remains were interred in St. Martin’s Church, and were honoured by many miracles. St. Ninian is commemorated in our Irish calendars on the 16th of September, under the name of Monennio, and it is a very ancient tradition, preserved in the Festology of St. Aengus and other authentic records, that a few years before his death he came to Ireland to aid Palladius, and erected at Cluain Conaire, now Cloncurry, in the north of the present County of Kildare, an oratory and religious institution which reproduced in miniature the great Church and Monastery of Whitherne. Bishop Forbes gives a list of more than sixty Churches, dedicated to him throughout Scotland; and Chalmers, in his Caledonia, writes that "the name of St. Ninian was venerated in every district of Scotland, and in the northern and western Isles."
The Four Masters record the death of an abbot of this Monastery of St. Ninian, in the year 869: "A.D. 869, Colga, son of Maetuile, abbot and anchorite of Cluain-Conaire-Tomain, died." As in the case of Whitherne, so also in that of Cloncurry, St. Ninian appears to have dedicated the Church to St. Martin of Tours conjointly with the B. Virgin."
St. Ninian of Cloncurry, pray for us!
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