Monday, January 19, 2009

St. Ita of Kileedy

Beside being the feast of Sts. Maur and Placid, January 15 was also the feast of St. Ita of Kileedy, aka "The foster-mother of the saints of Ireland." Born into the Irish royalty, she became a nun and eventually and abbess.

There is no doubt Ita excelled in the ‘Six Gifts" of Irish womanhood the ancient Celt looked for in the well educated girl - wisdom, purity, beauty, music, sweet speech, embroidery. She refused an offer of marriage as she wanted to consecrate herself completely to Christ. Her father refused her. She went at once to an aged priest she had known from childhood and publicly made her vows which she had already formed in her heart. She left her father’s house and the pleasant places round it and set out with some companions for the Ua Conaill territory in the West of Munster, the present Co. Limerick, to a place called "Cluain Creadhail" which some interpret to mean "Meadow of Faith" and which is now called Kileedy. Legend has it that Ita was lead to Killeedy by three heavenly lights. The first was at the top of the Galtee mountains, the second on the Mullaghareirk mountains and the third at Cluain Creadhail. Her sister Fiona also went to Killeedy with her and became a member of the community. (by Bridgid Haggerty)

She had a school for girls, and later, one for boys. Several Irish saints came under her instruction in their childhood and youth. There are several "visions" attributed to her that have been collected over the centuries. They are remarkable examples of Celtic religious poetry. Here is one called

Saint Ita sees Christ come to her in a vision as a baby to be nursed:

It is Jesukin ("Jee-su-kin" diminutive of Jesus)

who is nursed by me in my little hermitage:

though it be a cleric with treasures,

all is a lie save Jesukin. (One can imagine her addressing one of her boy students with this fond diminutive.)

The nursing I do in my house

is not the nursing of a base clown:

Jesus with the men of Heaven

under my heart every single night. (A description of her mystical union with Christ and the saints.)

Young Jesukin, my eternal good! (Absolutely!)

To heed him is a cause of forgiveness,

the king who controls all things,

not to beseech Him will cause repentance.

It is Jesus, noble, angelic,

not an unlearned cleric, ('Way too many of those even now.)

who is fostered by me in my little hermitage,

Jesus the son of the Hebrew woman. (St. Mary the Virgin)

Sons of princes, sons of kings,

though they should come into my country,

I should not expect profit from them;

more likely, I think from Jesukin. ("Put no trust in princes, in man in whom there is no help.")

Sing ye a chorus, O maidens, (She could be addressing her nuns.)

to Him who has a right to your little tribute,

who sits in his place above,

though Jesukin is at my breast.

Source: The Martyrology of Oengus trans. by Whitley Stokes, London, 1905

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