Who was St. Enda?

Saint Enda of Aran, is an Irish Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. His birth date is unknown but it is believed that he was born in Meath, Ireland. Research states that Enda was an Irish Prince; the son of Conall Derg of Oriel, in Ulster.
Enda grew up to become a warrior and as he was returning from a particularly bloody battle he stopped at the convent where his sister, Fanchea, was abbess (she later became Saint Franchea of Rossory). Fanchea reprimanded him for bringing the revelry of his war-band to the convent, where it disturbed the sisters. She rebuked him as well, telling him he had blood on his hands and should repent.
 Enda replied, that he would gladly give up war-making if he could marry one of Fanchea's pretty young nuns. Surprisingly, Fanchea agreed. However, she tricked him in this, because she knew that the nun she chose would soon die of illness. When the nun did die before Enda was able to marry her, Fanchea brought him in to look upon her body and meditate, thoughtfully and carefully, upon death. The brazen warrior Enda  was unafraid to kill in battle, but when forced to look at death in the peaceful setting of the monastery, he then understood the horror of his previous way of life and repented. Enda was deeply disturbed by this loss and took a different path in life and devoted himself to Christianity.
Enda then made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he was ordained as a Priest. He then returned to Ireland and built churches at Drogheda. He was given land on the wild and barren isle of Inis Mor (also known as Inishmore) in the Aran Islands, by his brother-in-law, the King of Cashel. Here he established the monastery of Killeaney.

Enda divided the island into several parts, each having its own religious house and its own superior, while he himself retained a general superintendence over them all. These structures were the chosen home of a group of poor and devoted men under Saint Enda. They were "men of the caves", and "also men of the Cross", who, remembering that their Lord was born in a manger and had nowhere to lay His head, followed the same hard way.

The days were divided into fixed periods for prayer, labour, and sacred study. Each community had its own church and its village of stone cells, in which they slept either on the bare ground or on a bundle of straw covered with a rug, but always in the clothes worn by day. They assembled for their daily devotions in the church or oratory of the saint under whose immediate care they were placed; silently they took in their frugal meals, which were cooked in a common kitchen, for they had no fires in their stone cells, however cold the weather or wild the seas. They invariably carried out the monastic rule of procuring their own food and clothing by the labours of their hands. Some fished around the islands; others cultivated patches of oats or barley in sheltered spots between the rocks. Others ground it or kneaded the meal into bread, and baked it for the use of the brethren. They spun and wove their own garments from the undyed wool of their own sheep. They could grow no fruit in these storm-swept islands; they drank neither wine nor mead, and they had no flesh meat. It is said that no fire was ever allowed to warm the cold stone cells even if "cold could be felt by those hearts so glowing with love of God."

Monks lived in these houses under austere rule and prayer, for centuries.
Enda died an old man in 530AD in his little rock cell by the surging Atlantic Ocean. He is buried at Tighlagheany, Inis Mor, Ireland. He was renowned for his holiness, having long ago given up the sword in exchange for the cross.  With St. Finnian of Clonard, Enda is considered the founder of monasticism in Ireland.

St. Enda’s feast day is on the 21st of March.
St. Enda, pray for us!

The Aran Islands
The three Aran Islands, Inis Mór Island (Big Island), Inis Meáin Island (Middle island) and Inis Oírr Island (East island) are situated in a north westerly, south easterly direction at the mouth of Galway Bay, Ireland. They are famous for their geological formation, historical monuments and their linguistic and cultural heritage.  The Irish (Gaelic) language is still spoken here and in the twenty first century all native born islanders are bilingual in both Irish and English.

Today, the primary industry on Aran lies in tourism. Mini-buses carry curious tourists to religious sites and scenic vistas. Traditional music may be heard in the pubs alongside rock and jazz. Although the island itself is famous for its Aran Jumpers, there are no sheep on Inis Mor. There are few skilled hand-knitters left on the island and the majority of Aran sweaters are made of imported wool and produced elsewhere.

It is ironic, for today cattle, goats, and horses now huddle and shiver in the storms under many of the ruins of old walls where once men lived and prayed, and where many went to seek refuge.
Most of the surviving constructions are the coastal ruined towers.


The Aran Islands                   Map showing the location of The Aran Islands

The remaining ruins of St. Enda’s Monastery on Inis Mor

Article compiled by Barbara Knox based on the following sources:

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