Wednesday, 21 March 2012

St Enda of Aran

Born in the late 5th Century, like many early Celtic saints, Enda was a prince of Ireland (there were many kingdoms to be princes of) and lived the life of a warrior. When his sister and Abbess Fanchea persuaded him away from a life of bloodshed, he entered monastic life and was ordained at St Ninian's Candida Casa in Scotland. 

On his return to Ireland, the king of Munster asked him to settle in the Golden Vale, but Enda chose to found his monastery at Killeany (Cill Eanna) on the remote islands of Aran which he found as beautiful "as a necklace of pearls, God has set upon the bosom of the sea,". Together with Finian of Conard, he became one of the patriarchs of Irish monasticism.

The monks who lived on the island - around 150 of them -  lived a hard life of work and prayer living off what they could harvest from the land and the sea. They were known as 'men of the caves' who were called to be 'men of the cross' and, like Francis two hundred years later, pledged themselves to the utter poverty of Jesus; sacrificing their lives to God and remembering that their Lord also had nowhere to lay his head.
The story goes that no fire was ever allowed to be lit to give heat in the cold stone cells.
But is was also a place of Christ's hospitality fed by the teachings of the desert fathers and was visited by many seeking wisdom and the spiritual life. 

Enda's reputation as a spiritual friend and guide led many famed saints to spend time with him on Aran. Brendan the Navigator received his blessing before setting sail and was said to have discovered him on the Isles of the Blest. Finian and Columba also spent time with Enda on the isles that he called 'Sun of the West'. 
He is said to have died, as a very old man, in a cave cell on the island in 530. 

I am reminded of the Lenten journey of transformation in seeing how this bloodthirsty warrior prince became a servant to the Prince of Peace.

 I wonder if the the calling that is within us all is made most real when it grows in response to a wounding of spirit. If the healing is not like that layering of a pearl - bringing something beautiful out of hurt?

Out of the bosom of this sea grew many pearls; each one responding as the oyster responds to injury; not through violence, resentment or revenge but by surrounding it with with layers of resilience; spiritual strength and prayer.

Upon such wisdom who could put a price?

Blessed be


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