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On the Feast Day of Blessed Giolla Criost Ua Condoirche

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Ice art outside our front door. 18 March 2014, Washington, D.C.

Yesterday was St. Paddy’s day and tomorrow is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, but in between we’ve got a brother from the ancient Celtic church.

“Beyond the fact that he was Abbot of the first Cistercian monastery ever established in Ireland, practically nothing at all can be stated with certainty about Blessed Christian, otherwise called Christian O’Conarchy or Giolla Criost Ua Condoirche. The various traditions and legends are confused and conflicting. According to some accounts, he was born at Bangor in Ulster, and Colgan says that he was the disciple and afterwards the archdeacon of St. Malachy of Armagh, and that he probably accompanied the prelate on a visit to Rome, staying at Clairvaux on his way there. He would appear to have been one of the four disciples who remained behind at Clairvaux on the homeward journey and who received the habit from St. Bernard himself. Upon his return to Ireland, St. Malachy was anxious to introduce the Cistercian Order into his country, and at his prompting Donouth O’Carroll set about building Mellifont. Malachy applied to the founder for a superior and some monks to start the new foundation, and St. Bernard sent Christian and several French brothers in 1142.

Abbot Christian is said by some writers to have become bishop of Lismore and papal legate for Ireland. An ancient anonymous Irish analyst notes the year 1186 as the date of the death of Christian, the illustrious prelate of Lismore, “formally legate of Ireland, emulator of the virtues which he saw and heard from his holy father St. Bernard and from the supreme pontiff, the venerable man Eugenius, with whom he was in the novitiate at Clairvaux”. His feast day is March 18th.”

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  • Joseph Ross March 19, 2014, 10:38 am

    I went to the ruins of Mellifont Abbey when I was in Ireland many years ago. It was a beautiful and haunting place. Thanks for this post, Rose.

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