Scotland's Saints for this month.
St Fillian, 8th Century
St Fillan was the son of St Kentigern and took up the Monastic habit in Wexford. He then travelled to Scotland where he stayed with his Uncle, St Comgan at Killilan, Lochalsh, which took the name of the Saint. After this St Fillian took his mission to Perthshire in the area that became known as Strathfillan. The arm of the Saint was believed to have helped the Scots at Bannockburn and his Crozier and Coigreach is exhibted in the National Museum of Scotand.
St Modan, 503AD, Abbot and Confessor
Another missionary from the Emerald Isle, St Modan travelled to preach the faith in the West of Scotland establishing his first Oratory near Loch Etive called Balmodhan. He was said to have travelled East as far Falkirk and Stirling before retiring at Rosneath in Western Dumbartonshire where he died. He was known for his great austerity.
St Ronan has wells, Churches and Isles that have been given his name from Peebles to Perthshire, Dumbartonshire, Bute, Lismore, Iona and Lewis. On Lewis there was a tradition at the Church of St Moluag - that to be healed, you marched around the building seven times then water from St Ronan’s well was sprinkled on you.
The most entertaining story and modern, is near Peebles in a place called Innerleithen. It has a well, mill, lodge and a famous book named after him. Innerleithen was popularised by Sir Walter Scott in his book; Saint Ronans Well, a part of his Waverley novels. It seems to have spawned the Cleikum Festival that celebrates the ancient story of when St Ronan arrived in the Innerleithen valley and faced the Deil (Devil) ‘cleikin im’ from the land. Cleikum describes a shepherds crook catching something by the hind leg. Another famous Scot - poet James Hogg, initated St Ronan’s Games in 1827 (Scotts novel was published in 1823) that eventually lead to a full on festival and re-enactment of the Saints dealing with the Deil in 1901 and is still celebrated today.
In addition to all this we have a famous Irish St Ronan involved in the controversy surrounding the date of Easter, a St Ronan on the Isle of Man and another famous St Ronan of Irish origin who was known as St Ronan the Silent. Although silent his example helped spread the faith in Devon, Cornwall and then Brittany in the 6th Century.
There seem a lot of St Ronan’s around and I think we can safely suggest we are dealing with more than one Saint and with some mixing up of Saints along the way. What is interesting is how many of these sites suggest solitude and an escape from the world. Is it possible this points to one of the attributes of the real St Ronan, at least in the Western Isles? It should also be noted that, as in many other cases, a place that venerates a Saint through naming does not necessarily mean the Saint was there; but it shows the people in that place felt their lives were impacted by this person. It is a lesson in the Communion of the Saints. Finally, regardless of the origins of the festival at Innerleithen, it is wonderful to see a town celebrating our Christian past acting as a witness to the reality of a God who is active and present in our world.
St Finan, 661 AD
St Finan (or Finnan) was an Irish monk who trained under the great St Columba at Iona Abbey.
St Finan was known as prudent, zealous for prayer and for following Gods will no matter what. He followed the model of all holy Bishops with his love of poverty, disdain for the world and a zeal to preach the gospel. When St Aiden of Lindisfarne died, St Finan became his successor and second Bishop of that Isle. In his time there he enjoyed positive relations with the King of Northumbria and had the delight of welcoming two other nearby Kings into the Catholic faith - King Siegbert of the East Saxons and King Peada of the Mercians. These conversions lead to missionaries being received into their respective Kingdoms. Saint Finan was also involved in the controversy surrounding the dating of Easter. Prior to the 7th Century the British/ Irish Church had followed a different dating to that of Rome. Evidence suggests he was open to the dates suggested by Rome but as it had not come down definitively at that time on a date he continued with the tradition already present in the British and Irish Churches. St Finan died ten years after becoming Bishop at Lindisfarne and was laid to rest next to St Aiden.
St Colman, AD 676
St Colman or Colmoc and the many derivatives make this a difficult Saint to pin down. There is indeed a St Colman of Tyrone who we in Scotland celebrate on this day, but in Ireland is August 6th. That St Colman led the Monks at Lindisfarne at the time of the famous Whitby Synod that decided on what date Easter would be followed - the Roman computation or how the British/Irish churches had been following it. St Colman then leaves Lindisfarne and begins a new monastery in Co. Mayo which was for Saxon monks. There is however mentioned in Scottish sources a St Colmoc of Moray who is celebrated on this day, little is known about him but it seems he had established a Church at Tarbet in Eastern Ross-shire. Was this a different Saint, who had a similar name and due to the gaelization of the Scottish Church became conflated with the Irish St Colman? The other possibility is that the St Colman of Moray is really just a derivative of St Columba, which is a common feature of the hagiographies of Saints in Scotland with a similar name to Columba. This particular Saint shows yet again the difficulties historians and researchers have when analyzing the varying sources regarding the Saints of Scotland and the British Isles. On this day though if you like to pray along with the Saints of our past I would seek St Colman of Tyrone to pray for the health and vitality of the Church.