Saint Mochua

 This Project was compiled for the Student Summer Job Scheme 1998 and was sponsored by the Timahoe G.A.A. Club, under the supervision of Mr. Eamon Comiskey, Secretary.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Timahoe Branch Librarian, Mrs. Maureen Scully and the staff of Portlaoise Library without whose help and support, this project would not have been completed.
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Tiamhoe, from past to present.
The Parish of Fossey has obtained its name from the district in which the old church was situated.
It appears that the name fossy was anglicised from ?fassach? meaning wilderness.
Today, the surrounding area is adequately populated with a landscape prevalently gradient, which is abundant in limestone and coal, which has been partially worked.
The ruined church at fossy was probably built or remodeled at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately, no historic record survives in respect to the founder or patron saint. Regarding the fabrication of the building, the church measures approximately 38 feet in length by 18 feet in breadth. A large pointed window reduced to an opening is positioned at he eastern gable while an entrance doorway can be noted at the western gable.
In the 9th year of Queen Elizabeth?s reign, this district was known as the Prior?s land, from an admirable family living in that country. Mochua was the patron of the parish and a festival occurs in honour of Mochua Maclonain on 24 December as mentioned in "Martyrology of Tallaght". Mochua is also registered on the same date in the "Martyrology of Donegal". Mochua resided in Timahoe for many years but journeyed northward to visit St. Patrick and to find a more peaceful location. His visit to St. Patrick seems contradictory with various other accounts of his life. St. Patrick as seen below did not live beyond the close of the fifth century.
St. Mochua, it is believed lived in the 6th or 7th century as Mochua died during the reign of Domhnall, monarch over Ireland.
It is believed that no other religious buildings were constructed at Timahoe until the end of the 9th century. Formerly a church and a monastic establishment were located beside the "pillar-tower" which stands still today. It seems probable that sections of the former religious buildings are traceable.
The village of Timahoe is surrounded by mountain ranges of noticeable height on every side with a gurgling stream The Bauteogue descending into the beautiful valley of Timahoe, where the interesting ruins can be found.
The village exhibits a fair green, which is surrounded by many well-built houses. These houses encircle the deteriorated vestiges of its ancient history.
The Round Tower of Timahoe still remains in an endurable existence. It rises to a height of 96 feet and measures 57 feet around the base on the outside circumference.
No light enters the two first stories. The third story was lighted on the eastern side by the doorway, which is 16 feet from the ground. The remaining 4th, 5th and 6th stories are also lighted by surrounding windows.
The original coved roof was completely destroyed and repaired in the 19th century. It now possesses a pyramidically-rounded cone with a mere point at the apex, originally it was not endowed with this shape. The tower was built of freestone, which is not a geological commodity of the area. The round tower at Timahoe is one of the most remarkable of its class throughout Ireland.
Year of death  Religious Person
880 AD Focarta, son of Dubhdacheall, Abbot of Teach-Mochua, died 
919 AD Cairbre, son of Fearadhach, head of piety of Leinster, successor of Diarmuid, son of Aedh Roin, Arichinneach of TighMochua, and an anchorite, died
928 AD Maelcaeimhghin, son of Scannlan, Abbot of Teach-Mochua, died
931 AD Cosgrach, son of Maelmochoirighi, Bishop of Teach-Mochua, and of Commans, died
936 AD Finguine, son of Fubhthaidh, son of Donnagan, son of Fogarta, son of Duineachdha, son of Bearach, son of Mescoll, Vice-Abbot (Prior) of Teach-Mochua and Lord of Magh-Abhna, died
951 AD Gormghal, Lecturer of Teach-Mochua and Inis Robartaigh, died
969 AD
Finnguine Ua Fiachrach, Abbott of Teach-Mochua, died
1001 AD Conaing Ua Fiachrach, Abbott of Teach-Mochua, died
1007 AD Finshneachta Ua Fiachrach, Abbot of Teach-Mochua, died
1041 AD Cuiche U Dunlaing, Lord of Laeghis, and his son, and Cailleoc his wife were slain by MacConin, at Teach-Mochua-Mic-Lonain; and he (MacConin) himself was killed on the following day by UA Broenain, for this act; and this was a great miracle by Mochua.
1069 AD Gillamaire, son of Dubh, Chief of Crimhthannas, was slain by Macraith Ua Mordha (O' Moore), in the doorway of the oratory of Teach Mochua

    For a period, Timahoe was the seat for a monastery and a bishop's see as recorded in the annals.
It is believed that the O' Moores of Leix erected a religious building in the 10th century, and history tells us that in 919 the oratory of Mochua was burnt down by Norsemen. Many abbots lived and died in Teach Mochua during the 10th and 11th century. During this time according to an annalistic entry, a school existed at Timahoe, in the middle of the tenth century. In the year 1142, Teach Mochua was burnt but was later refounded by the O' Moores. In the reign of HenryII, Hug h de Lacy erected a castle at Tachmeho (Timahoe) Leix, which he gave to Meilerius.

It has also been mentioned that the Cosby family when in possession of the manor of Timahoe constructed a castle there during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Queen allocated the abbey and land to Sir Thomas Loftus, where he died in 1635 AD. Following on, a battle was fought resolving when an English general monk defeated the Irish in 1642 AD. The ruins are traces of the former castle, which was in possession by Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Loftus, who was married to Francis, son of Richard Cosby.

It is believed that friars resided in the abbey at Timahoe until AD. 1650.

On the 2nd July 1827, a young man Daniel Keane, once a sailor, climbed the Round Tower at Timahoe. After safely descending in the presence of a large number of spectators, he received a large sum of money through a wager.

Around this time, also, the Rev. Cornelius Dowling P.P. of Stradbally and Timahoe embarked on the construction of the handsome Catholic Church, which he lived to see, accomplished. The Church otherwise known as St. Michael's Church replaced a thatched house stood in ruins.

In the Catholic arrangement, Timahoe and Fossey are united to the Parish of Stradbally.

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St. Mochua
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 knoen 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.

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Interesting Ceremony at Holy Well, Derrynoose, Keady.
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.
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Sermon by Cardinal O'Fiaich Derrynoose, 1987.
Today's ceremonies link together three of the great sources of our faith and devotion at local level : the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist; the honour which we give to Our Blessed Lady; and the veneration in which we hold the saintly persons and the holy places specially associated with the spread of Christianity in our own country.
We began this evening's ceremonies very appropriately with the blessing of your new Grotto in the grounds of St. Joseph's Church. Since last Sunday week, the opening of the Marion Year, you have had an opportunity, I hope, to read the pastoral letter addressed by the Irish Bishops to you all on the significance of this which is specially dedicated to Our Lady. I am sure Derrynoose Parish be fish be the first in the archdiocese to have marked the Marion Year by a permanent memorial to Mary. It takes the form of Lourdes Grotto and this makes it appropriate in a second way, because only last month we had our silver Jubilee Pilgrimage from Armagh to Lourdes, when upwards of a thousand pilgrims, that is, one out of every hundred adults in the archdiocese, spent five days in prayer and mediation at Lourdes and in service of our sick and infirm brothers and sisters.
We have come to seek Mary's help this evening not only as God's mother but as our own Mother as well. Centuries ago collections of stories for the use of preachers used to be circulated in manuscript and they often contained a story about Christ taking a stroll through paradise and being surprised at some of the people he saw inside. And he came to the entrance and suggested to St. Peter that he was letting people in too easily. St. Peter's answer was : "Christ how can I keep them out, when your mother's letting them in the back door?"
That's Mary's role in our lives. She's the intermediary, the go-between, the person we ask to intervene when we are afraid to go to the top, ourselves. The Bishops have asked us to make this Marian Year the Year of the Restoration of the Rosary. I know that there are now many distractions in the home, especially the little box in the corner. But we can say the rosary in the car on t he way home from work. We can say it waiting in the bus queue. You know the story of the monk, who was very fond like myself of smoking his pipe and he went up to the abbot and asked him for permission to smoke during prayers. The abbot of course refused him. Later that evening he saw one of the other monks in the garden reading his office and smoking. He asked him how he got permission. "What did you ask the abbot for,? said the other monk. "I asked for permission to smoke when I'd be praying," he said. "That's where you made the mistake," said the other monk. "You should have asked him for permission to pray when you'd be smoking."
So we can fit our rosary into the busiest day, if we only make a serious effort. If we can't get the whole family together at night, perhaps a decade after dinner and a decade after tea and the rest when we're going to bed. The new Lourdes Grotto shows Our Lady with the Rosary. Every time St. Bernadette went to the Grotto at Lourdes, she began saying the Rosary. I hope that many people will gather around your home during the long summer evenings and that someone will always begin the Rosary and that others will join in.
Mary leads us to Christ. And therefore we couldn't begin our Corpus Christi Procession today from a more appropriate setting than from Our Lady's Shrine. Corpus Christi means "the body of Christ." But it was Mary who brought Christ's body into this world, nursed him as an infant, tended to him as he grew to manhood, and finally saw his life's blood ebb away as she stood at the foot of the Cross. It must have been a particular consolation to Our Blessed Lady, as she parted with her son on the road to Calvary, to know that he would remain in the world afterwards under the form of bread and wine.
Why did Christ leave us himself in the Holy Eucharist, my dear friends? It can have been just for his own glory. There's hardly a more lonely spot on this earth than an empty church, with the tabernacle lamp flickering in the dusk. There's not much glory there.
Surely it was rather as the greatest of all proofs of his love for us and because he wanted to win our love in return. By his death and the resurrection he gained the victory over sin and death and the through the Blessed Eucharist he communicates that victory to us, he shares that victory with us. The Eucharist can never be separated, therefore, from Christ's Passion and Death. That's why the tabernacle and the Crucifix are always near the altar.
Whenever we are gathered around the altar to share the Body and Blood of Christ, we must bring away with us not only Christ's Body and Blood but also his love and concern for others. Our Mass and our Holy Communion are only empty gestures unless they spill over into the lives we lead.
It's from the Eucharist that we all receive the grace and strength to live real Christian lives. It's from the Eucharist, too that we receive a constant challenge to make our relations with our brothers and sisters more worthy of people who share the same body of Christ. The truth of our union with Christ in the Eucharist is tested by whether or not we really love our fellow men and women. It's tested by how we treat others. It is tested by whether or not we forgive our enemies, by whether or not we try to be reconciled with those who have need of us. If you want to know, my dear friends, how genuinely you love Christ in the Eucharist, measure it by your attitude towards the poor, the down-trodden, the oppressed, the deprived, the handicapped, all the weaker members of society.
We can't receive the Eucharist in the company of our fellow Catholics on Sunday and see them starving on Monday without doing something about it. We can't injure those who share the same table as ourselves or ignore them in their needs. So the Eucharist is a constant call to us to love our fellowmen and women and to put that love into practice in our daily lives. In other words, it is a constant call to conversion, to penance, to raise ourselves out of our sinful ways, to forget ourselves and live for God and for others.
For more than fourteen hundred years Christ has been present without a break in this area in the Blessed Sacrament. Back through Canon Pat Kelly who built the present Derrynoose Church in 1854 and Fr. Francis Lennon who built the earlier Derrynoose chapel in 1772, through Friar Quinn and Priest Shields during the Penal Times, through Patrick O'Donnelly the Bard of Armagh, who was parish priest here at the time of St. Oliver Plunkett and through the centuries before the Reformation when the Culdees of Armagh supplied the priests here, we trace the parish of Derrynoose back to the earliest list of parishes in the Archdiocese from about the year 1300. But even then Derrynoose had venerable history, going back another six and a half centuries to its saintly founder who flourished in the greatest era of Irish monasticism.
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Saints' Holy Wells
After the fall of Britain, Celtic water shrines gradually went out of use, although the veneration of healing and holy waters was not abolished. Many holy wells were dedicated to the Celtic Saints and these wells remain plentiful in all of the Celtic lands.
The wells are not deep, containing stone-lined shafts, natural springs which are protected and marked with stone structures or buildings. These wells were often used for drinking, bathing, contemplation and most importantly for worship.
It is likely that most of the holy wells were venerated before the establishment of the Christian religion.
The credits of any in dwelling spirits of the holy wells were passed on to Saints whose names they now carry.
The vast majority of these wells have waters believed to heal certain illnesses. On the Saints own day, New Year's day, Palm Sunday and Ascension day it is reported that water taken from the holy well will be particularly powerful.
In many places in both Britain and Ireland, faithful followers make pilgrimages to the holy well on the Saints day. These travelers acknowledge the entitlement they receive by drinking the Saints water from the holy well.
During the time St. Mochua lived in Armagh a holy well was dedicated to him. To this day devotions and pilgrimages are made to honour the memory of St. Mochua.
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The Landscape of the Saints
Holy places and the Saints
The Celtic Saints' closeness to nature helped them to find places of natural spiritual power and peace where they could live and pray.
The Celtic society, traditionally, the ancestral sacred grounds were cared for by the families who legally owned them.
As believed by Celtic common law, land could not be bought or sold, only inherited.
A man who became a priest in a Celtic church automatically maintained the legal rights over its family's inherited shrines.
If a family converted to the Christian religion the sacred lands were also converted for use of the new religion.
Many ancient monasteries have been found on Celtic land but many others primarily Christian sacred places were established on ground not previously recognised as holy.
In accounts of the lives of Celtic, Saints references have been made that holy places were located by omens, and special techniques were applied to demarcate sacred ground.
Historically, these techniques are remnant in pagan Celtic tradition. Certain events are shown as miraculous. Examples where Saint Mochua Performed miracles are seen when he stopped the river Lee in flood to allow St. Cianan and his fifteen disciples to pass through. Events like this may have occurred supernaturally.
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Sacred Walking
The artless everyday need of walking along a road was a sacred accomplishment to a Celtic Saint like St. Mochua.
Christian tradition has may references to spiritual walking along "the straight and narrow way", this represents committed adherence to the law of God. It has been quoted by a traditionally Gaelic maxim that "He who will not take advice will take the crooked track:.
Many of the trackways traveled on, by the Celtic Saints are named after Saints and are still walkable.
These tracks are identified by holy stopping places, such as thorn trees, stone crosses and isolated boulders. At each marking the traveler would stop and say a prayer.
To be on the correct track symbolises the pilgrim's journey to paradise and the material world somehow spiritually reflects the ancient Celtic trackways.
These trackways were also used as guides for the traveler to find his, or her way. The old Celtic monks' routes show knowledge of the landscape and area as they cross rivers at the lowest point, avoid hill crests and have restrained slopes.
The Celtic Saints made holy roads that linked sacred places. Pilgrims used these roads especially on holy days where processions would have been organised.
The procession from St. Mochua's Church to St. Mochua's well in Derrynoose, Keady, Co. Armagh is representative of a sacred walk.
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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
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That which is called the Christian Religion existed among the Ancients, and never did not exist, from the beginning of the Human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time true religion, which already existed began to be called Christianity
In conclusion to this project, I would like to express deepest appreciation to all people who have helped in anyway.
I thoroughly enjoyed compiling the project and hope that it will in some way be of help to anyone compiling a similar project sometime in the future.
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Last Revised: 18 October1999