Saint of the Day – 8 March – Saint Senan of Scattery (c 488-541) Monk, Abbot, Founder of many Monasteries and Churches. miracle-worker, one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland,. Born in c 488 at Corca Bhaisin, County Clare, Ireland, tradition says that Saint Patrick foretold his birth and saintliness and died on 8 March 544 at Inish Cathaig, Ireland of natural causes. Patronages – sailors and bodily afflictions. Also known as – Senan of Inis Cathaigh, Senames… Additional Memorial – 6 January as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
Senan was born in Corca Bhaisin, County Clare about 488. It seems that Senan’s family had two farms, one at Moylough and the other at a place called Tracht Termainn.
He placed himself under the Abbot Cassidan and took the monastic Habit. Cassidan was originally from South-west Cork. Senan then went to the Monastery of Kilmanagh (Ossory) to continue his preparations for the religious life. There he was credited with the performance of many miracles. He is next heard of having established a Church at Enniscorthy. The Book of Lismore states that Senan went to Rome and from there to Tours, which was at that time, the great monastic establishment in West Europe. Returning to Ireland,Senan established a Church and Monastery at Inniscarra, in Cork. Returning to his native district, he began his work on the islands of the Fergus . He crossed to Mutton Island, then to Bishop’s Island, south of Kilkee. Finally, about 534, he established himself at Scattery, the low green island about a mile off the coast off Kilrush.
Before Senan arrived on Scattery, also called Inis Cathaig, a legendary monster called “The Cathach” inhabited the island and terrorised the people who were afraid to approach the island. Sometimes referred to as the “peist” or sea-serpent, the Cathach was depicted on a carving in the old chapel of Kilrush as the “Cata.” On his arrival in the island, the Angel Raphael led Senan to the highest hill from which he was able to locate the Cathach. He then faced the monster and ordered it, in the name of the Trinity, to depart from the island. The Cathach obeyed immediately and “neither stopped nor stayed” until he reached the dark waters of Doolough Lake at the foot of Mount Callan.
Little is known of the Saint’s life in Scattery beyond the miracles recorded and the fact that the rule of his monastery was austere in the extreme. Apparently, no woman was allowed to live in or even land on the island. St Cainir, a relation of enans, had a convent to the West of Ballylongford. She crossed the river and hoped to end her days on Scattery Island but Senan forbade her to come ashore. She requested the last sacraments and a grave on the island. Senan agreed to this and she was buried at high water mark.
Senan died on 8 March 544. The river Shannon is believed to be named after him. His patron day on 8 March is an important day of pilgrimage to Inis Cathaig. He is buried on Scattery Island. The grave is supposed to be the site of miraculous cures as well as the miraculous holy well. Stones from St Senan’s Bed (his grave) were regarded as relics and a protection against diseases and especially drowning. In the folklore of West Clare the cult of Senan still survives.
In 1864 it is reported, that the Saint appeared in a vision to a paralysed woman who had visited Senan’s grave on the island. He came to her in a dream and asked her why she had come. She told the bearded man she wanted to be cured of her disease and trusted in the intercession of St Senan whom she had invoked. The next morning she awoke and found herself completely healed!
The above statue of St Senan came all the way from Australia and now rests in the parish of Doonbeg in West Clare.