Saint Fursa

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Fursa, or Fursey, Saint, flourished early in the 7th century. "Among the Irish saints," says Dr. Reeves, "who are but slightly commemorated at home, yet whose praise is in all the churches, St. Fursa holds a conspicuous place. With Venerable Bede as a guarantee of his extraction, piety, and labours, and above a dozen different memoirs, of various ages, which were found on the Continent in Colgan's time, the history of this saint is established on the firmest basis." He was the son of Fintan, a prince of Munster, and Gelgis, daughter of Aedh-finn, a chief among the Ui Briuin of Breffny; he was born near Lough Corrib. When he was grown up, he placed himself under St. Meldan, who was then abbot of a monastery on Inchiquin, in Lough Corrib. How long he continued there is not narrated.

On leaving St. Meldan, he erected a monastery at Rathmat, on the shores of the before-mentioned lake. We then read of his travelling in Munster, and during an illness witnessing some wonderful visions, which caused him to abandon the idea of returning to his monastery, and to make a circuit of the country, relating what he had seen, and exhorting the people to repentance and amendment of life. He thus spent fourteen years in Ireland, and then crossed over to England, where he preached the gospel with his usual success amongst the East Angles.

In a fort, now known as Burg Castle, in Suffolk, granted him by King Sigbert, he founded another monastery between the years 633 and 639. Afterwards he gave up the charge of this place to his brother and two priests, and then spending a year with another brother, Ultan, passed over to France, and at Lagny, on the Marne, erected a religious establishment, where he was joined by several brethren from Ireland. In 648 he founded the monastery of Foss. His death is believed to have taken place while sojourning with his friend, Duke Haimon, in Ponthieu, on his way to visit Ireland, about 649, and his body was ultimately brought to Peronne, and there interred. His festival is the 16th January.

A calendar of Scottish saints says: "The reputation of St. Fursey extends far beyond the limits of the Scoto-Irish Church. Not only is he one of the most distinguished of those missionaries who left Erin to spread the gospel through the heathen and semi-heathenized races of mediaeval Europe, bridging the gap between the old and new civilizations, but his position in view of dogma is a most important one. He has profoundly affected the eschatology of Christianity; for the dream of St. Fursaeus, and the vision of Drycthelm contributed much to define the conceptions of men with regard to that mysterious region on which every man enters after death." These particulars are taken from a critical manuscript account of the Saint by Dr. Reeves.

Sources

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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