I’d been wanting to post something for International Women’s Day but a busy family life has prevented it.
Anyhow, I wanted to share, with you, a fabulous Celtic saint I have just discovered and am informally adopting as my patron saint! (You’ll get why in a moment). She may well have been one of the first Christian feminists!
Her feast day in the Catholic calendar is January 28. St. Canarie (Cannera) died in 530AD, although her birth date is unknown.
Why would it be? She was merely a woman, albeit of noble birth, born into a masculine culture where fighting would have been a way of life, a means of survival with internecine wars common. So her birth date is lost in time. But her death is well recorded.
Because by the end of her life she had become a woman of renown. She was famous for being a lover of the Son of God, a follower of the Way.
Somehow she found her way to faith, discovered Jesus and became a child of the Living God. She lived as a cave-hermit in Bantry Bay in the south of Ireland. People would probably have come to her occasionally for her insight and wisdom, she would have studied with other holy men and women from time to time, but lived out her life, mostly in communion with the Lover of her Soul.
One day in a vision she saw Inis Cathaigh, the island we now call Scattery Island, which lies in the mouth of the River Shannon, off the coast of Co Clare. A monk named Senan had a monastery there. She saw pillars of fire rising from all the churches in Ireland but the tallest and straightest shone above the one where Senan lived and prayed.
“Fair is Senan’s cell, I will go there that my resurrection will be near it.”
Still in her vision she went directly to the isle (possibly translated, given the emphasis in tales of old) and as she neared it’s coast she walked on the water , she was so determined to get there and the power of God was upon her.
Senan, it appeared, had not read St Paul’s words in Galatians, emphasising that in Christ there is ‘neither Greek nor Jew, no slave nor free, no male nor female’ and refused her entry to his all-male community, even as a visitor, urging her to go to a neighbouring isle for women.
She stoutly refused to budge. (I love this woman!).
“Christ came to redeem women no less than to redeem men'” she said. “No less did he suffer for the sake of women than for the sake of men. No less than men, women enter into the heavenly kingdom.”
In honour of her stubbornness, Senan gave her what she asked for, Communion from his hand and a place for her to lie. The moment she took the bread and wine her spirit was taken up into heaven.
Her grave, half submerged under the water she walked upon, is still to this day marked with a flag.
Her persistence perhaps had a greater value than even this remarkable story. In later years it is recorded that Senan went on to mentor Aidan of Lindisfarne, (who was born of Inis Cathaigh). It is evident from his ministry that women found a place of full honour within the church there.
As women, there are ancient footsteps and wisdom, for us to follow………..