Saint of the Day – 12 September – Saint Ailbe (Died 528) Bishop of Emly, “The Patrick of Munster,” Confessor, Evangelist – Saint Ailbe is venerated as one of the four great Patrons of Ireland. Also known as – Ailbhe, Albert, Albeo, Albeus, Elvis. Patronages – Cashel, Ireland, Diocese of, Cashel and Emly, Ireland, Archdiocese of, Emly, Ireland, Diocese of, Munster, Ireland,wolves.
Ailbe was born to a maidservant in the house of Cronan, lord of Eliach in County Tipperary. Cronan, for reasons unrevealed, disapproved of his birth and directed that he be exposed to ‘dogs and wild beasts, that he might be devoured.’ But, instead, the baby was found hidden under a rock (Ail) and alive (beo), by a she-wolf who reared him among her own cubs. The Saint repaid the kindness toward the end of his life, when a she-wolf chased by hunters took refuge with him. He ordered that it should not be harmed and would come to eat with him each day.
Ailbe is frequently named as leader among the four “Palladian bishops” all of whom ministered in the south of Ireland – Ailbe of Emly, Ibar of Begerin, Declan of Ardmore and Ciaran of Saighir – before or around the time of the arrival of St Patrick.
Since Ailbe was also known in South Wales, it seems certain that before Patrick there was a movement of Christians between the south of Wales and the south of Ireland. And it may be from this movement that Ailbe received his Christian faith. Another source says Ailbe Baptised St David of Wales.
Ailbe was particularly friendly with Declan. The Life of Declan says: “They loved one another like brothers…” The Life also says they both went to Rome and were Ordained Bishop by the Pope.
The Life of Declan also deferentially declares: “Humble Ailbe was the Patrick of Munster….” He was considered to be one of the pre-Patrician Saints of Ireland
The church Ailbe founded at Emly in south-west Tipperary became a centre of formation for other well-known monastic saints, such as St Colman of Dromore and St Enda of Aran island.
Ailbe is said to have petitioned King Aengus of Cashel for a site for a Monastery for St Enda. Unaware that he had islands in his domain, Aengus that night dreamed about them and granted them to Enda.
According to the Annals of Innisfallen, which draws on records originally compiled at Emly, Ailbe died in 528.
Another interesting story is that Ailbe’s tomb, long forgotten, was discovered in Cashel in 580 when St Brendan of Birr came on a visit to inaugurate the new king. An ancient and weathered Celtic cross in its churchyard is known as “St Ailbe’s Cross.”
Emly later became an important Ecclesiastical centre and Diocese. In 1718 it was united with Cashel and St Ailbe is the Patron of the joint Archdiocese.
St Ailbe’s monastic Rule:
A ninth century monastic rule bears Ailbe’s name. It consists of 56 verses in Irish, including these instructions to a monk:
Ailbe’s windowLet him be steady, let him not be restless, let him be wise, learned, pious; let him be vigilant; let him be a slave; let him be humble kindly.
Let him be gentle, close and zealous, let him be modest, generous and gracious; against the torrent of the world, let him be watchful, let him not be reproachful; against the brood of the world, let him be warlike.
The jewel of baptism and communion, let him receive it.
Let him be constant at prayer, his canonical hours let him not forget; his mind let him bow it down without insolence or contention.
A hundred genuflections for him at the Beata at the beginning of the day… thrice fifty psalms with a hundred genuflections every hour of vespers.
A genuflection thrice, earnestly, after going in past the altar rail, without frivolity and without excitement, going into the presence of the King of the angels.
A clean house for the guests and a big fire, washing and bathing for them and a couch without sorrow.