Celtic- St. Benen of Ireland – 9 November 2016-2

St. Benen of Ireland, Bishop of Armagh, Saint Patrick’s chanter

Detail of the stained glass window of St. Benen (also named Benin or Benignus). Author Andreas F. Borchert CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Saint Benignus of Armagh (died 467) was the son of Sesenen, an Irish chieftain in that part of Ireland which is now County Meath. He was baptised into the Christian faith by St. Patrick, and became his favourite disciple and his coadjutor in the Diocese of Armagharound AD 450. His gentle and lovable disposition suggested the name Benen, which has been Latinised as Benignus.[1]

He followed his master in all his travels, and assisted him in his missionary labours, giving assistance in the formation of choral services. There is some reason to think that his family belonged to the bardic order.[2] From his musical acquirements he was known as “Patrick’s psalm-singer”. As Benignus had been trained by Patrick in sacred learning from his early youth and was well versed in the language and learning of his native land, he was appointed secretary to the great Commission of Nine, which a few years before had been constituted to compile the Brehon Laws.[2]

Benignus is said to have contributed materials for the “Psalter of Cashel”, and the “Book of Rights”. He succeeded St. Patrick’s nephew Sechnall as coadjutor and became the first rector of the Cathedral School of Armagh.[2]

He was present at the synod which passed the canon recognising “the See Of the Apostle Peter” as the final court of appeal in difficult cases, this canon is to be found in the Book of Armagh. St. Benignus resigned his coadjutorship in 467 and died at the close of the same year. His feast is celebrated on November 9.[1]

In Easter 433, Patrick clashed with King Laoghaire at Tara over religion, and legend has it that a trial by fire was proposed. A pagan druid and Benignus were tied inside a burning timber building, the former was reduced to ash while Benignus was untouched, at this turning point Christian teaching was established.[3]

His foundation of Kilbennan in East Galway, close to Tuam, made him the patron of Connacht.[4]

Most authorities have identified St. Patrick’s psalm-singer with the St. Benignus who founded Kilbannon, near Tuam. However, Tirechán’s collections in the Book of Armagh, states that St. Benignus of Kilbannon was the son of Lugni of Connaught. St. Benignus of Kilbannon had a famous monastery, where St. Jarlath was educated, and he also presided over Drumlease. His sister, Mathona, was Abbess of Tawney, in Tirerrill.[1]

In Cavan, he established a monastery on Drom Benen (hill of Benan), today’s Drumbannon, and also in cill benen (church of Benan), today’s Kilbonane, West Cork.