Celebrating 1100 Years of Viking Monastic History
Timahoe Heritage Festival.
St. Mochua of Timahoe.
Acknowledgements. This information below, comes from a Project, which was compiled for the Student Summer Job Scheme in 1998, and was sponsored by the Timahoe G.A.A. Club, under the supervision of Mr. Eamon Comiskey, Secretary. Special mention was made in the transcript for Timahoe Branch Librarian, Mrs. Maureen Scully and the staff of Portlaoise Library without whose help and support, the project would not have been completed.
The original posting of the project can be viewed here, and we wish to express our gratitude for the permission to republish.
Reference to the life of Mochua can be found written in Latin, covering less than six pages in Plummer’s edition.
Written in Medieval times, it portrays Mochua as being a great wonder worker, healer and tells us of the many miracles he performed. Unfortunately, there are very few facts in the Latin text about Mochua.
Approximately 59 Saints have been accounted for, all bearing the name Mochua, but it should be noted that some are possibly carbon copies of the same person. It is believed that Mochua of Timahoe and Armagh are the same person, but after some reading, it appears that the Mochua of Timahoe settled in Dayrinis, formerly an island in the river Blackwater where he remained for thirty years having attained the extreme age of ninety-nine. Other records state that his last foundation being Derinish was in Cavan, where he died in 657 or 658.
Again, I must reiterate that very few facts have been obtained from Latin text relating to the short ‘Life’ of Mochua.
The life of Mochua in Timahoe and Armagh shall be discussed in this section.
Born in the 560’s Mochua descended from the race of Eochaidh Finnfuathairt. Fineach, daughter of Loichin, son of Dioma Chiret, of Cill Chonaigh, was his mother. He came from Achonry district in Connacht. Towns including Charlestown, Ballaghderreed, Foxford, Kiltimimagh and Tubbercurry are all in the diocese of Achonry which may give an insight into his native area. In his youth, he was known to have been a famous warrior who conquered many enemies. At the age of thirty, in the prime of his life he became a Christian convert and became a monk.
It was an era when many men turned their backs on the world to establish a network of religious buildings covering Ireland, Scotland, England and the continent. Examples include Colmcille in Durrow, Derry and Iona, Finian in Clonard, Colman in Clonmacnois, Brendan in Clonfert, Finbar in Cork, Kevin in Glendalough, Comgall in Bangor and many more.
Mochua’s first foundation was awarded to him by his Uncle but Mochua had the building burned along with his own belongings so that he could live in a simple manner during his religious life. After leaving Connacht, Mochua traveled to Timahoe, Co. Laois where he built his first and best-known monastery (Teach Mochua). The ruined monastery still posses one of the finest Round Towers in Ireland, which bears an elaborately carved Romanesque doorway.
From medieval text it has been described how Mochua performed many miracles including, how he cured Munnu from Leprosy, how he restored his memory to Colman, the neighbouring abbot of Lynally, how he procured good weather to enable Cianan to complete the building of his church. Cianan of Dunleek in Co. Meath erected the first stone church in Ireland. For the completion of the church, Cianan requested that all men and women saints of Ireland pray for good weather including Mochua. Mochua prayed and fasted in earnest which resulted in there being no rain for a year and a half.
Another miracle performed by Mochua involved him stopping the river Lee in Flood to allow St. Cianan and his fifteen disciples to pass through. He also restored life to a flock of twelve deer on Slievemargy.
St. Mochua traveled to many parts of Ireland and Scotland after his stay in Timahoe. He founded thirty churches between the two countries. As his fame, escalated crowds of people became a distraction in Timahoe. He wanted silence, quietness and peace, which he discovered in Armagh. The ancient life states that “under God’s guidance Mochua came into the land of Oriel to a certain place called Derrynoose” (the oakwood of the stag).
It was in this location that Mochua rang his bell, which he carried in his hand, but to his dismay, the tongue of the bell fell on the ground. It was quoted from ancient life that ” the place was mountainy and almost uninhabitable” (locus montanus et quasi inhabitabilis). God sent an angel down to comfort Mochua and told Mochua “God wants you to inhabit this place and build a church”. This was obviously a sign and Mochua erected a church there. He lived there for the remainder of his life, thirty years, until he passed away in Derrynoose on Christmas Eve, 24th December 657.
In remembrance Mochua is recognised in the Irish Martyrologies, the Martyrology of Oengus calling him ” Mochua from Timahoe in Laois in Leinster and Derrynoose in Sliabh Fuad”, otherwise known as the high ground running across the center of County Armagh.
The following is an account from a newspaper cutting in Armagh, dated 1930.
In connection with the Mission Exercises in St. Joseph’s Church, Derrynoose a beautiful ceremony took place on Thursday evening (Ascension Thursday, 25th May).
This touching example of Catholic devotion took the form of a pilgrimage from the parish church to a Holy Well in the neighbourhood, which had recently been renovated, known as St. Mochua’s. The proceedings opened with the Rosary and the two versus of the Lourdes hymn in the chapel, which was thronged to the overflowing, many having to remain outside.
Devotions in the chapel were conducted by Rev. Fr. Rogers, C.C.
The order of procession, which formed on the road, was as follows:
First the cross-bearer, with two acolytes; next the men, among the beautiful banners and the women. After them followed a special contingent bearing a large statue of Our Lady and the Divine Child, while St. Joseph’s Flute Band, and the church choir, brought up the rear. This immense concourse wended its way to the Well in a most orderly and well conducted manner, leaving the stewards a very pleasant task. The road from the holy well was spanned by great arches, most artistically decorated.
Arriving in its destination, the procession spread itself out and divided, making way for the clergy and statue-bearers, who marched up and deposited their precious burden in the grotto in a place prepared for it. As the well-side the pilgrims were addressed by the Rev Fr Casmir, C.P., who dealt at length on life, labours and virtues of their great patron-Saint Mochua. Taking as his text a passage from the Old Testament, the Rev. preacher went on to compare our National Apostle to the holy Patrioch Abraham. Like him, he left his own land, his family, friends and acquaintances and went into a foreign country and a pagan people. Although there is very little of the country he did not visit and preach in, yet the colossal task of converting a whole nation be too much for one man, but in this he was helped by his disciples, and later by ‘the host of pious converts whom called to spread the good tidings they themselves had received.’ Among these was the great Saint in whose honour the pilgrimage was made.
A pagan himself, and born of pagan parents, St. Mochua when he heard the message of the Gospel, gave up a life in the world which held fair promise for one so gifted and accomplished, and traveled from his native Connacht to Leix. Thee, in one of the monastic schools, for which Leix was then so famous, he studied to prepare himself for his future mission. Having fitted himself for his apostolate he journeyed largely round the South of Ireland, but this was not to be the place of his resurrection, so he turned his steps Northward, hoping to find some quiet spot where he might end his days in prayer and peace. He was then in his sixtieth year. When he reached Derrynoose the little bell, which he always carried, rang of itself, and the tongue dropped out of it. Taking this as a sign from Heaven that he must linger here, he stopped and made his abode in this country, and for the success of his labours in that region what better proof need we ask for than the strong virile faith of its people to this day. He died at the patriarchal age of ninety, and the miracles which marked his whole life ceased not at his death, for his holy well became the scene worship. Through the intercession, the deaf began to hear, the dumb began to speak, and the blind had their sight restored. Somewhere around where the blessed well is situated his remains lie buried, probably in the old churchyard nearby.
Two decades of the Rosary were recited, one in English and the other in Gaelic by Fr. Rogers, who also read a prayer to Saint Mochua. This was followed by the singing of two versus of the Ave Maria by the choir under the conductorship of Mrs. Terry P.E.T. The procession then re-formed and marched back to the church. The band played music along the way. Benediction of the most Blessed Sacrament brought the evening’s celebrations to a close.
Among the clergy present were Very Rev. Canon Brady, P.P., Derrynoose; Rev. M. MacDermott, C.C. do; Very Rev. Middletown. Of the faithful it is estimated that over 3,000 were present; they came in buses and on foot from the nearby parishes.
Chadwick ‘The Age of Saints’
D’Arcy ‘The Saints of Ireland’
Gumley & Redhead ‘The Christian Centuries’
Marsden ‘Celtic Holy Men’
Toulson Shirley ‘The Celtic Year’
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
A Soldier who became a Monk!
Mochua was from Achonry in Connaught. His father was Lonan. He became a successful soldier, but at the age of thirty decided to become a monk. His principal foundation was at Timahoe (Teach Mochua = “Mochua’s house”), Co Laois.
His three pets: a rooster, a mouse and a fly
St. Mochua lived as a hermit without worldly goods except he had three pets – a rooster, a mouse and a fly. The rooster called him for the hour of Matins. If, weak from his vigils and prayers, Mochua dosed off during the day, the mouse would nibble at his ear to arouse him again. The fly would walk along each line of his Psalter as he read it, and when he became tired, the fly would stop at the point where the saint had broken off until he could return to resume reading the Psalms.
Mochua had a reputation as a healer, and is said to have cured two other abbots – St Colman Elo of a sudden loss of memory and St Fintan Munnu of ‘leprosy’.
The year 657 is given as the year of his death. There is a record of the burning of an oratory of St Mochua there in 919 and the Annals of the Four Masters give details of abbots of Timahoe.
From – Catholic Ireland
Follow the link below to read the full article:
24 December, 2012 There are reputedly fifty-eight Mochuas among the saints of Ireland, but the one celebrated today is associated with Timahoe in Co Laois. There are reputedly fifty-eightMochuas among the saints of Ireland, but the one celebrated today is associated with Timahoe in Co Laois, a village about ten kilometres south-east of Portlaoise.
Details from a project undertaken in 1998, and sponsored by Timahoe G.A.A.
Two decades of the Rosary were recited, one in English and the other in Gaelic by Fr. Rogers, who also read a prayer to Saint Mochua. This was followed by the singing of two versus of the Ave Maria by the choir under the conductorship of Mrs. Terry P.E.T.