During his life on earth St. Malachy was:
12th-century Ireland's leading reformer of Christianity
a humble man who shunned personal possessions
the first native of Ireland to be canonized a saint
an archbishop and a papal legate
a worker of miracles
In the book "Life of Saint Malachy," his biographer Saint Bernard
of Clairvaux says Malachy was distinguished by his meekness, humility, obedience,
modesty and true diligence in his studies. Saint Charles Borromeo praised
him for attending to the needy, bringing the holy sacraments to all alike,
and renewing the fervor of the people in receiving them. Clearly, Malachy
is a shining example for all times.
IRELAND OF THAT TIME
Physically isolated from the continent by the high seas, Ireland was
the only European country not overrun by barbarians during the Fall of Rome
and the Dark Ages. During those centuries Ireland preserved the literature
of Christian civilization; students flocked to her abbeys and monasteries
for their education; and for several hundred years she was indeed the island
of saints and scholars.
Around the start of the 9th century, however, the Viking raids on Ireland
began. The country was subsequently invaded and occupied; many monasteries
were plundered; monks were put to the sword; churches demolished; and libraries
burned. These disruptions along with secular impositions by the invader
produced a decline in observing the religious and moral standards established
by Saint Patrick and other early missionaries. Apathy towards the Christian
virtues was increasing and by the 11th century some parts of Ireland had
even returned to paganism. This was the world into which Malachy was born.
Saint Malachy was born in Armagh in 1094 A.D. He was baptized Maolmhaodhog
ua Morgair (Malachy O'More). His father, a teacher, died when Malachy was
seven. His mother, a pious woman, lived just long enough to bring up her
son in the love and fear of God. After her death, desiring to learn the
practices of humility and living for God, he submitted himself to the religious
discipline of Eimar (Imar O'Hagan), a holy recluse residing in a cell near
Armagh cathedral. Saint Bernard says of that experience: "His obedience
as a disciple, his love of silence, his fervor in mortification and prayer,
were the means and marks of his spiritual progress."
Upon completing his training he persuaded Eimar to accept other novices
and a hermitage community developed. The Archbishop of Armagh, Ceolloch
(Saint Celsus), ordained him a priest at age 25 although the prescribed
age was 30. Fearing that he was not sufficiently prepared to carry out the
mission which the archbishop was planning for him, Father Malachy went to
Lismore where he spent nearly two years studying sacred liturgy and theology
under Saint Malchus.
The archbishop sent Malachy out to preach the word of God to the people
and to correct many evil practices which had developed over the years. He
achieved notable success. To reform the clergy he instituted regulations
concerning celibacy and other ecclesiastical discipline, and reinstituted
the recitation of the canonical hours. Most importantly, he gave back the
sacraments to the common people, sending good priests among them to instruct
the ignorant. He returned to Armagh in 1123.
ABBOT AND BISHOP
That year his uncle, lay-abbot at the Abbey of Bangor, resigned the abbey
to Malachy in hopes that he might return it to its former status and observance.
With ten members of Eimar's community of hermits he rebuilt the abbey and
ruled it for a year, during which time several miracles were attributed
to him. He also established a seminary for priests there. Malachy was zealous
in performing his own monastic duties and set a good example to his priests.
But in an act of charity that caused many objections he gave away the abbey's
lands and most of its revenues.
Soon after leaving the abbey, Malachy was chosen at age 30 to be Bishop
of Connor. He set about converting its nominal Christians to a true devotion,
searching them out on foot in their homes and fields to bring them to church.
Drawing on his connection with Bangor he was able to staff the churches
of the diocese with well-instructed priests who revived the fervor of the
people. He renewed all things in Christ. In all his actions he breathed
a spirit of patience and meekness.
With the Church starting to gain strength, the local secular princes
made trouble. The city of Connor was sacked and Malachy had to flee. He
led the Bangor monks to County Kerry, where they were welcomed by King Cormac.
They settled in the vicinity of Cork, which is how Malachy came to be venerated
As in England at that time, secular rulers often usurped authority from
the Church. In this way the succession of archbishops in Armagh had been
made hereditary over the years, and Archbishop Celsus now wished to break
the chain by leaving his see to Malachy. In 1129 Celsus died and a few days
later Malachy received the archbishop's staff along with a letter from the
dying man naming him as the next archbishop of Armagh. When Celsus' relatives
heard of this they acted quickly, installed the late archbishop's cousin
Murtagh. Malachy refused to try to occupy the the cathedral for three years,
fearing further bloodshed by Celsus' kin.
During this time, as Saint Bernard writes, Malachy established Church
discipline and replaced the Celtic Liturgy (the "Stowe" Missal)
with the Roman Liturgy.
Finally, in 1132, under threat of excommunication if he refused to formally
take office, Malachy submitted, saying: "You drag me to death. I obey
in the hopes of martyrdom, but on this condition: that if the business succeeds
and God frees His heritage from those who are destroying it--all being then
completed, and the Church at peace, I may be allowed to go back to my former
bride and friend, poverty, and to put another in my place!" In this
way Malachy declared that he would stay only long enough to restore order,
and he refused to enter the city or the cathedral, ruling from outside.
In 1134 Murtagh died, naming another member of the laity, Nigellus (Niall,
who was Celsus' brother) as his successor. To give weight to his claim Niall
seized two precious relics from the cathedral, the golden Crozier of Saint
Patrick, called the Bachal Isu (Staff of Jesus), and the Book of the Gospels,
which had been handed down from the time of Saint Patrick. The common people
believed that the true archbishop was the one who had these relics in his
possession. Also in support of Niall, the secular rulers refused to recognize
the legitimacy of Malachy's claim, instead persecuting him and putting obstacles
in his way at every turn. Both sides were supported by militia, armed conflict
broke out, and as a result of this struggle Malachy finally took possession
of the cathedral.
Malachy's rivals invited him to a meeting, and though aware of their
evil designs, he went with a few companions. The results were surprising.
His mildness and courage disarmed his enemies and they rose up to do him
honor. Peace was concluded between them. Niall was deposed, the relics restored
(although Malachy had to purchase the Crozier from Niall), and Malachy finally
took unchallenged possession of the see.
In 1138, having broken the tradition of hereditary succession, rescued
Armagh from oppression, restored ecclesiastical discipline, re-established
Christian morals, and seeing all things tranquil, Malachy resigned his post
as originally agreed. He appointed Gelasius of Derry, a worthy prelate,
to succeed him as archbishop and returned to Connor, dividing that diocese
into the sees of Down and Connor and retaining the former. Living in peace
as Bishop of Down, he founded a priory at Downpatrick for the community
of Ibracense monks, with whom he resided.
TO ROME AND CLAIRVAUX
Now that more tranquil times blessed the land, Malachy set out for Rome
to give an account of the affairs of his diocese to the pope, Innocent II.
This was a difficult trip in those days. He traveled via Scotland, England
and France, stopping at the Cistercian abbey of Clairvaux to meet Saint
Bernard. In Rome he petitioned the pope for official pallia (bishop's cloaks)
for the metropolitan See of Armagh and the new diocese of Cashel. While
in Rome the pope officially approved all that Malachy had accomplished and
appointed him legate (the official representative of the pope) for Ireland.
On his return journey he left some of his companions in Clairvaux to
learn the way of life and the rule of the Cistercian monks. (They returned
to Ireland in 1142 with five of the monks to establish the Cistercian Order
at Mellifont, thus founding the great abbey located there.)
Malachy returned home through Scotland, where he miraculously restored
the health of Prince Henry, grandson of Saint Margaret. Malachy told the
lad, "Be of good courage; you will not die this time," and sprinkled
him with holy water. The next day the dangerously-ill boy recovered.
Arriving in Ireland he was welcomed by the people and priests. As the
newly-appointed legate, he convened synods and enforced further regulations
for abolishing abuses. Malachy continued to work many miracles for the sick
THE FINAL JOURNEY
Pope Innocent II died before the pallia were sent, and two other popes
were elected and died in rapid succession (Celestine II, 1143-44, and Lucius
II, 1144-45). Malachy convened a synod of bishops and received their commission
to apply once again for the pallia, and he started a journey to visit the
new pope, Eugenius III. Approaching the Alps in October, 1148, he fell ill
with a fever. He was given hospice by the monks, who with Saint Bernard,
treated him as a dear friend. As his fever grew worse, he told them that
he would not recover and asked to receive the sacraments. He died in Saint
Bernard's arms on November 2 and his body was buried at Clairvaux.
Many miracles were attributed to Malachy during his life on earth. In
Ivrea, Italy, he cured his host's child. He exorcised two women in Coleraine,
and one in Lismore. In Cork he raised from a sick bed one whom he named
bishop of the city, and a notorious scold was cured when she made her first
confession to Malachy. In Ulster a sick man was immediately cured by lying
on the saint's bed. A sick baby was healed instantly in Leinster. In Saul,
County Down, a woman whose madness drove her to tear her limbs with her
teeth was cured when he laid hands on her. At Antrim a dying man recovered
his speech on receiving the Holy Viaticum. A paralyzed boy was cured in
Cashel and another near Munster. On an island where the fishermen were suffering
for lack of fish, he knelt by the shore and prayed, and the fish returned.
In addition to these, many other miracles occurred at Malachy's tomb.
Saint Malachy was canonized in 1190 by Pope Clement III. Although Malachy
died on November 2, the Feast of Saint Malachy is observed on November 3
so as not to conflict with All Souls Day. His feast is kept by the Cistercians,
the Canons regular of the Lateran, and throughout Ireland.
The Breviary in its office for the Feast of Saint Malachy mentions that
he had the gift of prophesy. Saint Bernard tells of Malachy predicting the
day and hour of his own death. But the best-known prediction attributed
to him is the sequence of future popes, which receives some publicity whenever
a new pope is about to be elected.
While in Rome in 1139, Saint Malachy is said to have gone into a trance
and received a strange vision in which he foresaw all the popes from the
death of Innocent II until the end of time. Afterwards he jotted down a
few words about each pope and presented the manuscript to Innocent II, who
allegedly stored it in the Vatican Archives where it remained forgotten
until discovered in 1590. It was then published and its authenticity has
been debated ever since. The manuscript contains 112 prophesies, which scholars
have correlated with each of the 110 popes and antipopes since Innocent
II (2 prophesies remain to be fulfilled). Whether the prophesies are truly
from Saint Malachy, or whether they are a hoax, they do make interesting
reading. Here are the prophesies for recent popes.
The words of the 108th prophesy are "Flos Florum" (Flower of
Flowers). The 108th pope after Innocent II was Paul VI (1963-78). His coat
of arms included three fleurs-de-lis (iris blossoms).
The 109th is "De Medietate Lunae" (Of the Half Moon). The corresponding
pope was John Paul I (1978-78), who was born in the diocese of Belluno (beautiful
moon) and was baptized Albino Luciani (white light). He became pope on August
26, 1978, when the moon appeared exactly half full. It was in its waning
phase. He died the following month, soon after an eclipse of the moon.
The 110th is "De Labore Solis" (Of the Solar Eclipse, or, From
the Toil of the Sun). The corresponding pope is John Paul II (1978-2005).
John Paul II was born on May 8, 1920 during an eclipse of the sun. Like
the sun he came out of the East (Poland). Like the sun he has visited countries
all around the globe while doing his work (he is the most-traveled pope
The 111th prophesy is "Gloria Olivae" (The Glory of the Olive).
The Order of Saint Benedict has claimed that this pope would come from their
ranks. Saint Benedict himself prophesied that before the end of the world
his Order, known also as the Olivetans, will triumphantly lead the Catholic
Church in its fight against evil. Pope Benedict was born April 16, 1927 and became Pope in 2005. Proponents of the prophecies generally try to draw a connection between Pope Benedict and the Olivetan order to explain this motto: Benedict's choice of papal name is after Saint Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine Order, of which the Olivetans are one branch. Other explanations make reference to him as being a pope dedicated to peace and reconciliations of which the olive branch is the symbol. Pope Benedict announced his resignation in February 2013 in a speech in Latin before the cardinals, citing a lack of strength of mind and body due to his advanced age.
The 112th prophesy says: "In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed [in accordance with Revelation 18:4-20], and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End."
On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of the Jewish Society of Jesus was named Pope Francis I after St. Francis of Assisi whose full name was Francesco di Pietro (Peter) di Bernardone, an Italian who was once a beggar in Rome. Some say this effectively makes Pope Francis I "Peter the Roman." Pope Francis I is known as a humble man who spoke out for the poor and led an austere life in Buenos Aires. He was born to Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the Argentine capital. Pope Francis I is the first Jesuit and the first from the Americas to be elected Pope. He is the first non-European pope since Syrian-born Pope Gregory III, who served for ten years (731–741).
Pray for us, Saint Malachy