St. Malachy in Rome

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIV

But peace was not yet established in Ireland. I shall return again to the narrative of domestic feuds, which made it a "trembling sod," the O'Loughlins of Tyrone being the chief aggressors; for the present we must follow the course of ecclesiastical history briefly. St. Malachy was now appointed Bishop of Down, to which his old see of Connor was united. He had long a desire to visit Rome—a devotional pilgrimage of the men of Erinn from the earliest period. He was specially anxious to obtain a formal recognition of the archiepiscopal sees in Ireland, by the granting of palliums. On his way to the Holy City he visited St. Bernard at Clairvaux, and thus commenced and cemented the friendship which forms so interesting a feature in the lives of the French and Irish saints. It is probable that his account of the state of the Irish Church took a tinge of gloom from the heavy trials he had endured in his efforts to remove its temporary abuses. St. Bernard's ardent and impetuous character, even his very affectionateness, would lead him also to look darkly on the picture: hence the somewhat over-coloured accounts he has given of its state at that eventful period. St. Malachy returned to Ireland after an interview with the reigning Pontiff, Pope Innocent II. His Holiness had received him with open arms, and appointed him Apostolic Legate; but he declined to give the palliums, until they were formally demanded by the Irish prelates.

In virtue of his legatine power, the saint assembled local synods in several places. He rebuilt and restored many churches; and in 1142 he erected the famous Cistercian Abbey of Mellifont, near Drogheda. This monastery was liberally endowed by O'Carroll, King of Oriel, and was peopled by Irish monks, whom St. Malachy had sent to Clairvaux, to be trained in the Benedictine rule and observances. But his great act was the convocation of the Synod of Inis Padraig. It was held in the year 1148. St. Malachy presided as Legate of the Holy See; fifteen bishops, two hundred priests, and some religious were present at the deliberations, which lasted for tour days. The members of the synod were unwilling that Malachy should leave Ireland again; but Eugene III., who had been a Cistercian monk, was visiting Clairvaux, and it was hoped he might grant the favour there. The Pope had left the abbey when the saint arrived, who, in a few days after, was seized with mortal sickness, and died on the 2nd November, 1148. His remains were interred at Clairvaux. His feast was changed from the 2nd of November, All Souls, to the 3rd, by "the seniors," that he might be the more easily revered and honoured.

In 1151 Cardinal Paparo arrived in Ireland with the palliums which had been solicited by St. Malachy. The insignia of dignity were conferred the following year, at the Council of Kells. Tithes were then introduced for the first time in Ireland, but they were not enforced until after the English invasion.