Conversion of Ethnea and Fethlimia

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter IX. ...continued

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After this glorious termination of Easter week, the saint made two other important converts. He set out for Connaught; and when near Rath Cruaghan, met the daughters of King Laeghairé, the princesses Ethnea and Fethlimia, who were coming, in patriarchal fashion, to bathe in a neighbouring well. These ladies were under the tuition of certain druids, or magi; but they willingly listened to the instruction of the saint, and were converted and baptized.

The interview took place at daybreak. The royal sisters heard the distant chant of the priests, who were reciting matins as they walked along; and when they approached and beheld them in their white garments, singing, with books in their hands, it was naturally supposed that they were not beings of earth.

"Who are ye?" they inquired of the saint and his companions. "Are ye of the sea, the heavens, or the earth?"

St. Patrick explained to them such of the Christian mysteries as were most necessary at the moment, and spoke of the one only true God.

"But where," they asked, "does your God dwell? Is it in the sun or on earth, in mountains or in valleys, in the sea or in rivers?"

Then the apostle told them of his God,—the Eternal, the Invisible,—and how He had indeed dwelt on earth as man, but only to suffer and die for their salvation. And as the maidens listened to his words, their hearts were kindled with heavenly love, and they inquired further what they could do to show their gratitude to this great King. In that same hour they were baptized; and in a short time they consecrated themselves to Him, the story of whose surpassing charity had so moved their young hearts.

Their brother also obtained the grace of conversion; and an old Irish custom of killing a sheep on St. Michael's Day, and distributing it amongst the poor, is said to date from a miracle performed by St. Patrick for this royal convert.

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