St. Patrick’s Feast Day, March 17th, has just passed and to many, St. Patrick is the earliest apostle to Ireland. Although he raised people from the dead and cast out the snakes of Ireland, St. Patrick (Pádraig – Irish) is not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland. Four saints preceded St. Patrick in bringing Christ to the Irish: St. Déclán, St. Ciarán, St. Ailbe, and St. Ibar. If anything, their cultivation prior to and during Padraig’s arrival aided in his mission. 

There are many legends associated with these pre-Patrician Saints. The first two saints are the most likely to have actually preceded St. Patrick’s ministry in Ireland; however, these four men focused their ministry in southern Ireland.

St. Déclán of Ardmore is one of the four whose ministry most likely preceded 432 A.D. He was a descendant of the Déisi, and possibly a prince of the Déisi of Munster. His main church resided in Ardmore, or in Irish, Ard Mór, in Waterford. St. Déclán’s Round Tower Oratory can still be visited today. What is known of this Irish saint can be found in the Life of Déclán. This Latin text dates to 1200 AD detailing his miracles and meetings with other Irish saints. His feast is celebrated on July 24th

St. Ciarán of Saighir founded the see of Ossory, and his feast day is March 5th. He is said to be of royal lineage and was born on Clear Island. In Irish hagiography, he is associated with a fox, a boar, and a hawk, as these were his earliest “monks.” He is featured in the martyrology of Óengus, and called the “first-born of the saints of Ireland.” Also, he is mentioned in the Irish Litany of Pilgrim Saints. 

St. Ailbe of Emly’s feast is celebrated on September 12th. He founded a church in southwest Tipperary that produced other strong Catholic saints, such as St. Enda of Aran and St. Colmán of Dromore. He was a friend of Déclán, who called him “the Patrick of Munster.” The Codex Salmanticensis contains the most information known about St. Ailbe, and a ninth century monastic rule is attributed to him. 

St. Ibar of Beggerin Island, Wexford, was probably of Ulster Origin. He was a hermit on the Aran Islands, and his feast day is celebrated on April 23rd. He is considered a pre-Patrician bishop, but he may also have been a contemporary of St. Patrick. St. Abbán is believed to be his nephew. 

Although these four Irish saints are oftentimes forgotten in the celebration and many miracles of St. Patrick, their lives and legends still remain a part of Irish history. Their Christian cultivation of Ireland after Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland, and prior to and with St. Patrick depending on the accuracy of the legends, marks their place in Irish history. The forgotten four were men of character, faith, and passion as they spread Christianity throughout the southern island, just as St. Patrick was spreading Christianity in the northern island. His feast may have passed along with the celebrations, green drinks, and clovers, but let us not forget the shamrock of Ireland — the four pre-Patrician bishops — the forgotten four.



At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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