Just a few days after the feast of Ireland’s most famous saint, Patrick, we celebrate another Irish trailblazer, Enda of Aran. He is a remarkable character in Catholic and Irish history, as his life’s path took a 180-degree turn.
Enda inherited control of a large territory in present-day Northern Ireland from his father Conall. His sister Fanchea, who already embraced consecrated religious life with a community in Meath, looked unfavorably on the battles and conquests of her brother. Enda is said to have made a deal with his sister, promising to change his ways if he could marry one of the young women of her convent.
But this was a ruse on Fanchea’s part, as the promised girl soon died. Fanchea forced him to view the girl’s corpse, to teach him that he, too, would face death and judgment. Thus, Enda’s sister, who would be recognized as a saint in her own right, changed the course of her brother’s life.
Enda gave up his violent ways and left Ireland for several years, during which time he became a monk and was ordained as a priest. Upon his return to Ireland, he petitioned his King Aengus of Munster – who was married to another of Enda’s sisters – to grant him land for a monastic settlement on the Aran Islands, a beautiful but austere location near Galway Bay off Ireland’s west coast. His mission soon grew to more than 150 monks and Enda divided up the territory between his disciples, who founded their own monasteries to accommodate the large number of vocations.
Although he didn’t begin a religious order as we now understand the concept, Enda held a position of authority and leadership over the monastic settlements of Aran – which became known as “Aran of the Saints,” renowned for the monks’ strict rule of life and passionate love for God.
During his own lifetime, Enda’s monastic settlement on the Aran islands became an important pilgrimage destination, as well as a center for the evangelizations of surrounding areas. At least two dozen canonized individuals had some association with “Aran of the Saints.”
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: St. Enda. (n.d.). Catholic News Agency. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-enda-700