From farmers son to Saint… How did St. Senan create a following centuries ago?
Saint Senan (c. 488-544)
As we flick through social media and absorb stories about celebrities and news from around the globe in an instant, try to imagine what it was like in the years around 488-544, when a young man was born, near Kilimer in County Clare.
Just how extraordinary did one man’s life have to be to get passed on in stories and by word of mouth to survive for thousands of years.
We are told that from the very moment of his birth when a branch his mother grabbed in childbirth burst into blossom there were signs that this young man called Senan was going to be different.
As Ireland gradually changed from Paganism to Christianity it was a time when only miracles and extreme piety guaranteed you any sort offollowing. The story continued that as a young farm boy, driving his cattle home across the estuary, the sea parted saving him and the cattle from drowning and that this miracle was the source of his inspiration and lifelong devotion to the Church.
He became a monk, and prepared himself for monastic life and by all accounts led an austere and frugal life on some of the most remote islands on the West Coast of Ireland.
He was known to have travelled as far as Rome , through Cornwall, across France and onto Italy. What determination must it have taken to get him there, how he got there, and how long must it have taken to make such a journey is hard to imagine.
When he finally decided to settle on Scattery Island, there was the small matter of a terrifying Sea Monster “the Cathach or Peist” to be ordered off the Island and spirited away forever. No problem for this brave and fearless monk, who is said to have “faced off” the sea serpent and ordered its departure from the Island.
As there were no mobile phones to capture a selfie of this incredible moment, try to imagine what type of monster it could have been to have generated such fear and be remembered for so many centuries, as another of Senan’s miracles.
Scattery Island under Senan become a peaceful austere Monastic setting where he finally settled. and built his most famous and greatest monastery, with five churches. This took place between 535 and 540.
In the folklore of West Clare the cult of Saint Senan still survives.
In modern terms he was a celebrity with a huge and devoted following, can you imagine what his Instagram and facebook page would look like, and how much trouble he was in for not allowing women onto the Island?
What do you think made this farmers son’s life remembered to this day?