Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Feast of Brendan the Navigator

St. Brendan of Ardfert and Clonfert, known also as Brendan the Voyager, was born  near the present city of Tralee, County Kerry, in 484; he died at Enachduin, now Annaghdown, in 577. 

For five years he was educated under St. Ita, "the Brigid of Munster", and he completed his studies under St. Erc, who ordained him in 512. Between the years 512 and 530 St. Brendan built monastic cells at Ardfert, and at Shanakeel or Baalynevinoorach, at the foot of Brandon Hill. It was from here that he set out on his famous seven year voyage for the Land of Delight together with anything from eighteen to one hundred and fifty brother monks.

The old Irish Calendars assigned a special feast for the "Egressio familiae S. Brendani", on 22 March; and St Aengus the Culdee, in his Litany, at the close of the eighth century, invokes "the sixty who accompanied St. Brendan in his quest of the Land of Promise". As part of the journey, it is said that he and his monks came to ground on a small island that was actually the back of a great whale. Whether the journey was factual, geographical, spiritual or legend is continually under debate. Many historians and archaeologists offer their theories whilst navigators, shipwrights and sailors test their own skills to prove or disprove the tales. Perhaps their first question should not be 'is it true?' but rather 'what does this tell us?'. 

The inspiration of the voyage, brought pilgrims and students flocking to Ardfert. In a few years, many religious houses were formed at Gallerus, Kilmalchedor, Brandon Hill, and the Blasquet Islands, in order to care for those who came for spiritual guidance to St. Brendan.

Having established the See of Ardfert, St. Brendan proceeded to Thomond, and founded a monasteryat Inis-da-druim. He then journeyed to Wales, and to Iona. After a three years' mission in Britain he returned to Ireland, and followed his missionary path to Leinster, especially at Dysart,Killiney, and Brandon Hill. He founded the Sees of Ardfert, and of Annaghdown, and established churches at Inchiquin, County Galway, and at Inishglora, County Mayo. 

After his death,  St. Brendan was buried in Clonfert, and his feast is kept on 16th May.

A Brendan Blessing

May your life be held in the coracle of the Father's hand
May His vision be your sextant and compass 
May His Creation be a wonder to your eyes

May your life be held in the nets of His gentle Son
May his friendship be your crew and your navigator
May his peace be your food and your drink

May your life be held in the sails of the Spirit's breath
May her light be your stars and your charts
May she guide you through doldrums and storms 

May your journey be blessed by the Sacred Three
May you set forth each day for the Kingdom
May your heart be restless 'til you reach the Western shore

Blessed be



  1. What a saint. He sailed from Ireland to Newfoundland!! The explorer Tim Severin replicated the journey in 1976 to prove that it could have been done. Unlike Brendan he didn't land on a whale, thinking that it was an island. It took Brendan and his crew of 14 two years before returning to Clonfert. God bless.+x

  2. Love this prayer Word and the painting too.

  3. I'm sure it could have been done - there are theories about the Canaries as well - just an adventurer at heart.Don't spoil it by proving it!

    Phil - thanks - glad I took a photo of the painting (and Brigid's) before I gave it away!
    Blessings of the day +