Saint Malachy O'Morgair

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Malachy O'Morgair, Saint, Archbishop of Armagh, was born near Armagh, in 1095. He was educated near his home, by Abbot Imar, and afterwards at Lismore, under Bishop Malchus. Returning to Ulster, he was admitted to orders, and in 1120 was placed over the Abbey of Bangor. Four years later he was consecrated Bishop of Connor. According to Harris, St. Bernard gives a lamentable account of the people of his diocese, saying that Malachy found them rude, barbarous, and uncultivated; but "in a few years wrought such a reformation in the morals of his flock as was little inferior to that brought about by St. Patrick in these parts." Archbishop Celsus, on his death-bed in 1129, desired that Malachy should be his successor in the primacy; but it was not until 1134 that he was permitted to enter on the duties of the see, which he held but three years.

In 1137 he resigned (Gelasius being appointed), and betook himself to the see of Down, where he founded an abbey. In 1139 he proceeded to Rome, was received with great distinction by the Pope, and appointed Legate. "He returned to Ireland and landed at Bangor, where he was received with the universal exultation of all degrees of people. He entered on the exercise of his legatine function over all parts of Ireland, held many synods, and restored and reformed the old discipline;" he purified the monastic orders, and introduced a branch of the monks of St. Bernard. In 1148 he undertook another journey to Rome to solicit palls for the Irish Church, but died of fever at Clairvaux, 2nd November, aged 53, and was there entombed. In 1793, during the French Revolution, his remains and those of his friend St. Bernard were removed from their sepulchres. What are believed to be portions of them, since recovered, are now regarded with great veneration. An account of his life, from which subsequent writers have derived almost their entire information, was written by St. Bernard, in whose arms he died. He was canonized in 1190: his festival is 3rd November. An exhaustive memoir of this saint has been written by the Rev. John O'Hanlon.

By Protestant writers his ministry is believed to have marked a most important era in the history of the Irish Church, at which it abandoned its independence, and was brought under the influence of Rome; and it is thought that the accounts of the disorders of the state and of the Church before his time are unduly exaggerated by contemporary writers, so as to justify and glorify the change that then took place.

Sources

267. O'Morgair, Life of St. Malachy: Rev. John O'Hanlon. Dublin, 1859.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

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