' ST. SENNEN
OF this saint but little is known. There is a short account of him in Alban Butler's 'Lives/ and in Colgan's ' Acta Sanctorum.' In the life of St. Kieran we come across him for a moment. That saint, having given his upper garment (his cuculla) to a beggar, is met by Sennen while wearing only his pallium (or under garment), and gravely rebuked : ' Fie on a priest who walks about in one garment only, without his hood ! ' They were evidently particular in those days as to the garments worn ; and perhaps it was as well, for in many instances the cowl did ' make the monk/ and was the only ' religious ' thing about him. He is supposed to be the same person as St. Senan of Iniscathy, an Irish abbot of the sixth century, but the identity is by no means certain. The Irish St. Senan was a native of County Clare, and the child of noble parents - in fact, his father was, like most Irishmen, of royal blood. The Irish martyrologies further tell us that his parents were Christians, but what little we know of them hardly confirms the statement.
His parents were ' moving house/ when Senan, instead of lending a hand, knelt down to prayer, on which his ' Christian ' mother poured cold'water and strong language on him, but without effecting her object. As, however, Senan resumed his prayer the domestic utensils of the establishment were by some unseen agency removed from the old abode to the new. Shortly after he was compelled by the Prince of Corco-baskin to join a marauding expedition, but managed to avoid taking any part in the evil that was wrought. His party was defeated and he was allowed to go whither he would. He then studied under the abbot Cassidan, and, having received the monastic habit, entered the monastery of St. Naal, where he spent some years. He is reported to have been a proficient in piety and learning ; but the only acts of his life in the monastery that have come down to us cannot be regarded as strict proof of these attainments. On one occasion he (by a miracle) prevented the calves which he was tending from having their natural nourishment, for fear the brethren would not have milk enough ; and on another, when observed by a monk while using the fingers of his left hand as candles whereby to read at night,1 he was so annoyed that he said: 'For prying a stork shall peck out your eye,' which a stork accordingly did, and, at the command of St. Naal (whose views of piety were apparently of a higher standard), St. Senan had to replace the eye and cure the wound, which, being a saint, he of course at once did without difficulty. We cannot follow him through all the actions of his life - his dispute with Lugadh, Prince of Inis-carra ; his erection of a church on Inis-luinge, in the Shannon; his voyage thence to Inis-mor, and his compulsory visit to Inis-tuaiscert, whither he was driven by adverse winds, and where (regarding the winds as expressive of the will of God) he erected a church. Arrived at Inis-mor (Inchmoor, at the junction of the Fergus with the Shannon), he founded the monastery over which he for some time successfully presided. For some reason, however, he left here and, in spite of the opposition of the prince, founded another monastery on the island of Inis cathaig. To this island came the holy St. Kannera, a nun of Bantry, who, in spite of Senan's rule that no woman should set foot upon the island, was resolved to receive from his hands the Viaticum, and to lay her bones on the forbidden soil. Probably if no such rule had been made St. Kannera would have been quite content to be buried at home. St. Senan, however, met her boat and stopped her on the shore, quaintly asking: ' What have monks in common with women ? ' The lady closed the discussion by saying : 'I will die before I go back,' and promptly did so, and was buried where she fell.
When St. Senan himself died his obsequies were celebrated in a manner that showed him to have been held in great veneration. It is a pity these martyrologies are filled with so much trash, for probably, did we know the truth about St. Senan, we should find him to have been a very ordinary and respectable man, with a desire to lead a true and pious life of usefulness, and perhaps without any pretence at being a miracle-monger. Some of the martyrologies contain a tale of St. Senan even more foolish than those already given ; they state that as the corpse was being carried to the grave it sat up and directed that his anniversary should be held on March 8 instead of on the.... '
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