January 28, 2020

Saint Cannera of Inis Cathaig (+ 530)

St. Cannera of Inis Cathaig (Feast Day - January 28)

Little is known of Saint Cannera (or Conaire) except that which is recorded in the story of Saint Senan, who ruled a monastery on Scattery Island (Inis Cathaig), which ministered to the dying--but only men. Cannera was an anchorite from Bantry in southern Ireland. When she knew she was dying, she traveled to Senan's monastery, after a divine vision directed her there, without rest and walked upon the water to cross the river because no one would take her to the place forbidden to women. Upon her arrival, the abbot was adamant that no woman could enter his monastic enclosure. Arguing that Christ died for women, too, she convinced the abbot to give her last rites on the island and to bury her at its furthermost edge. Against his argument that the waves would wash away her grave, she answered that she would leave that to God. Probably because Saint Cannera walked across the water, sailors honor their patron by saluting her resting place on Scattery Island. They believed that pebbles from her island protected the bearer from shipwreck. A 16th-century Gaelic poem about Cannera prays, "Bless my good ship, protecting power of grace...."

Below is the text about Saint Cannera from the Life of Saint Senan:

The pious Cannera, a virgin saint, of Beantraige (Bantry), in the south-west of Erin, who established a Disert in her own country. A certain night after vespers, as she was at her prayers, she saw all the churches of Ireland, and a tower of fire rising out of every one of them up to heaven. The fire which rose out of Innis Cathaig was the largest, the highest, and most brilliant of all, and rose most directly heavenward. On beholding this the holy virgin exclaimed, "That is a beautiful Recles (church)," said she, "and it is to it I will go, that my resurrection may be out of it. O heavenly spouse," said she, "whatever church or holy place that is, it is there I wish my resurrection to be." She then prayed God that she might not lose sight of that tower of light, but like the tower of fire that led the children of Israel through the wilderness, so it might lead her into the place; and God granted her prayer.

She set out forthwith, having no guide but the blazing tower of fire which continued to burn without ceasing, both day and night, till she reached it. When she reached the water at Luimneach (Limerick) she went on foot over the water as if she walked on the dry ground, and reached the shore at Inis Cathaig, at early dawn next morning. Saint Senan, knowing this, came to the shore to meet her and bade her welcome. "It is for that I came," said Cannera, "and blessed are they w’ho come in the name of the Lord."

"Go," said Senan, "to my mother and my sister who abide in that island on the east, and you will be entertained by them there.'

"That is not what I come for," said Cannera, "but to be received by yourself into this island, and to remain here in communion of prayer with you."

"Women do not abide in this island," said Senan.

"What is your reason for that?" said Cannera. "Christ did not come less to redeem women than to redeem men. Christ was crucified not less for women than for men. Women were serving and attending Him and his apostles, and women do not go less to heaven than men."

"You are speaking in vain," said Senan to the holy virgin, "there is no distinction between their souls, but not so with their bodies, and so women shall not reside in this island as long as I live," said Senan.

"And will you give me a place of interment and resurrection in your island, and communion and sacrament from yourself?"

"You shall have a place of resurrection on the brink of the sea," said Senan, "but I fear the tide will take away your remains."

"I fear not," said she, "for my hope is in the Lord God, and I have confidence in your great sanctity that you will put a protection over my body."

The holy virgin was standing on the water, and her Trosdan under her bosom as if she had been on the dry land all this time while Senan was conversing with her, and at last Senan permitted her to come in on the brink of the island, and Cannera scarcely reached the island alive. Senan then went into the church and brought communion and sacrament with him to Cannera, and she then died and was buried in the strand on the south side of the island, where her grave is. Any person in the state of grace who goes to the stone which is over her grave, and who prays there with fervent piety, beseeching her intercession with the Trinity for him, if he be going on sea, He will return by the grace of God, and he will not be drowned in any part of the world.