23 Jul

St Enda, Memorial: March 21st

Converted by his sister

One of the most significant of the early Irish saints, St Enda of Aran was a warrior who was converted by his sister, the abbess St Fanchea. Born in 484 or thereabouts, he established Ireland’s first monastery on the Aran Islands.

Viewing a corpse

He was the son of a leading Ulster warlord. When his father died he had to fight his clan enemies, but his sister pacified him, on condition she find him a wife. His fiancee died before he could get married. To teach him about death and judgment, Fanchea forced her brother to view the girl’s corpse.

Enda at this point decided to study for the priesthood, heading to south-western Scotland, where he took vows, returning to found a monastery at Innish.

A gruelling life

Enda and his monks were inspired by the asceticism of the Egyptian desert hermits. The religious lived hard, gruelling lives of labour, fasting and prayer, and they had no fires in their stone cells. Enda lived on the island until his death as an old man, around 530. The monastery survived the Vikings, but alas, not the Cromwellites. It was ransacked in the 1650s.”

– This article was published in the Catholic Herald magazine, March 20 2015, issue 6702. For subscriptions please visit (external link)


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