St. Finnian, Abbot, Ascetic, Teacher of the Irish Saints

English Language Study for Russian Orthodox Learners

St. Finnian, Abbot, Ascetic, Teacher of the Irish Saints (✝549 or 550)
Feast Day – December 12 (25)

… and my speech and my message were not in plausible
words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit
and the power, that your faith might not rest in
the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
- I Corinthians, 2:4-5

Saint FinnianSt. Finnian is regarded as the father of Irish monasticism because he spent much of his life educating monks.  Among his pupils were the saints known  as the twelve apostles of Ireland.  Venerable Father Finnian was born to noble parents around 470 in the town of Myshall, Ireland.  He received religious training from a local bishop and, as a young man, travelled to different  monasteries in Wales and France.  When St. Finnian returned to his native Ireland, he, with the permission of the king, established two churches near present-day Dublin.  An esteemed scholar, Fr. Finnian also taught at St. Brigit’s monastery in Kildare.  The abbess greatly respected him for his knowledge of the Scriptures, ascetic labours and love for holy poverty.  

In 520, St. Finnian went to the eastern part of Ireland to establish a new monastery.  Near the village of Clonard there was a land covered by marshes and dense woods, and inhibited by wild animals.  There, in the wilderness, Fr. Finnian built a little cell from clay.  Away from the world and with only God watching him, the holy man led a life of constant prayer and fasting.  He slept on the ground with a heavy chain around his naked body.  In the daytime, he wore the same clothes until they started falling to pieces.  The saint’s food was only a little bread with herbs and water.  On feast days he ate porridge and sometimes fish, but never tasted meat.  The time that was left after physical labour, Fr. Finnian spent in study of holy books.  He had an amazing knowledge of the Bible and knew many parts by heart.

Word about the holy hermit, living a life of severe self-denial, started spreading.  People in large numbers came to seek his advice and ask for religious instruction.  Along with the local people, monks and scholars from different parts of the country visited St. Finnian to hear his words of divine wisdom.  Among the clergy who humbly came to learn from Fr. Finnian were abbots and even bishops.  Thus, a school for educating monks was opened.  The number of students was about 3,000.  The school and monastery existed for many years after St. Finnian’s death but were destroyed in the Viking raids of the ninth century.

It is said that St. Finnian knew the time of his passing and chose a monk to offer him the Holy Sacrifice at the hour of death.  He asked one of his disciples, “Go and see what all the brethren are doing at this moment.”   The disciple returned and reported that all the monks were working:  some were busy with physical labour, some, with the study of the Scriptures.  One of brothers, named Columba, was praying with his hands up towards heaven, and birds were sitting on his head and shoulders.  “He is the one,” the saint said, “from whose hands I shall receive the Holy Gifts for the last time.”

Holy Father Finnian, the glorious “tutor of the Irish saints,” reposed in the Lord at the age of 80, struck down by the plague during an epidemic.

Celtic Cross