IRELAND OF MY HEART
CELTIC HOLY WELLS
Co. Roscommon, Ireland
St Ethenea / Ethna & St Fidelmia / Fidelma (+433)
Saint Patrick of Ireland (+460)
St Patrick of Ireland
meeting and baptized Saints Ethenea & Fidelmia
Saints Virgins Ethenea (Ethna) and Fidelmia (Fedelma) of Ireland (+433)
Died 433. One summer day the little daughters of King Laoghaire of Connaught, Ethna and Fedelma, who were barely out of childhood and full of fun, went for their daily bath in a private place near the palace, a place to which no one ever came so early in the morning. But this special day they were surprised to hear voices and see tents encamped on the grassy slope near the pool.
There was a drone of a strange language and every now and again a sweet voice broke into song and mingled with that of the birds in the nearby woods and the murmuring of the river. Saint Patrick and his companions, who had arrived during the night with a message for the King of Connaught, were praying the Divine Office in Latin. Finally, each group spied the other.
The older princess asked, Who are you, and where do you come from?
Patrick hesitated, then said: We have more important things to tell you than just our names and where we’re from. We know who the one true God is whom you should adore…
The girls were delighted, rather than annoyed. In a flash something seemed to light up inside them, to make a blinding white blaze in their hearts and minds. They knew at once that this was real, real news and that it was true. It all happened instantaneously. Then they asked a whole torrent of questions:
Who is God? Where does He live? Will He live forever? and on and on as excited young people do.
Patrick answered each question quickly and simply. He, too, was delighted: the light that blazed up in the girls was in the man, too, and the three lights together made a tremendous glow. Everyone else stood listening raptly, feeling lucky to be witnesses to the saintly man and the sweet girls–and the Holy Spirit in their midst.
Oh, tell us how to find the good God. Teach us more about the kind Jesus, who died upon the Cross. Tell us more, more, more, the princesses urged. But there was no need for more; the two had already received the gift of the Spirit of Truth.
Patrick led them to their bathing pool, where he baptized them. For a short time thereafter, Ethna and Fedelma were very quiet for they were in deep prayer. Meanwhile, Patrick prepared to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Then the princesses began again, I want to see Jesus Christ now, said Ethna.
And so do I, echoed Fedelma. I want to be with Him in His home forever.
Patrick, moved by this loving longing, very gently explained that they would not be able to see God until after their death. They were still young, so it would be a long time before they could see Him as He is. If they lived good Christian lives, then they would be able to go to God for always and great joys would replace the present sorrows. The girls pondered this as Patrick began the Offering.
As the holy Offering went on everyone was still, but the river and woods seemed to sing God’s praises. Then the youngest man rang a little bell and all bowed their heads. Jesus Christ was with them in the grassy knoll in the king’s park. Soon the bell rang again. Patrick beckoned the princesses forward and gave them Holy Communion.
For a little while the girls looked so happy and so beautiful that they were like angels. And then, we are told, they died. They longed so much to be with Jesus that they died of longing. Saint Patrick was exceedingly happy to have met such quick and whole-hearted belief (Benedictines, Curtayne).
This other retelling of the meeting between Patrick and the two young girls is from Muirchu’s 7th century Life of Saint Patrick:
On his missionary travels, Saint Patrick came to Rathcroghan near Tulsk. At the well of Clebach beside Cruachan (probably today’s Tobercrogheer), he pauses for a rest.
Rathcroghan, the rath of Croghan, is an ancient Celtic royal burial place, rich in earthworks and earlier megalithic remains. The seven-foot-high standing stone in the middle of a ring-fort is said to mark the burial place of the pagan monarch Daithi.
While Patrick and his clerics are assembled at the well, two royal maidens, fair Ethne and red-haired Fedelma, come to wash their hands. These two daughters of Loeghaire are being brought up in Connacht by the two wizards, the brothers Mael and Caplait. Surprised at the strange appearance of the monks and priests, the girls ask them who they are, and where they come from. Patrick replies that it were better for them to believe in the true God than to ask such questions.
Ethne then asks him:
What is God? Where is God. And of whom is God?
And where is God’s dwelling place?
Does your God have sons and daughters?
Has he gold and silver? Is he immortal?
Is he beautiful?
Have many people fostered his son?
Are his daughters beautiful and beloved of men?
Is he in heaven or on earth?
Or on the plain?
In what manner does he come to us?
In the mountains? In the glens?
Is he young or old?
Tell us of him, in what manner is he seen?
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Patrick answers them:
Our God is the God of all men, the God of Heaven and Earth,
of seas and rivers, of Sun and Moon and stars,
of high mountains and deep valleys,
the God over Heaven and in Heaven and on Earth,
and in the sea and in all that is therein.
He informs all these things, he brings life to all things,
he surpasses all things, he sustains all things.
He gives light to the Sun, and to the Moon by night.
He makes fountains in the dry land and islands in the seas,
and he sets the stars in their places.
He has a Son, co-eternal with himself and in his own likeness.
Neither is the Son younger than the Father,
nor the Father older than the Son.
And the Holy Spirit breathes in them.
The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit cannot be divided.
In truth I wish to unite you to the Heavenly King,
you who until now are the daughters of an earthly king.
With one voice and heart, the two girls answer: In what way can we believe in the Heavenly King? Instruct us most diligently so that we may see him face to face, inform us and whatever you tell us we will do.
Patrick asks them if they believe that in baptism the sin of their father and mother will be cast off, to which they reply We believe.
Patrick asks them if they believe in repentance after sin, in life after death, in resurrection on the Day of Judgement, in the oneness of the Church. To all of these questions the girls reply We believe.
They are then baptized, Patrick blesses the white veils over their heads, and they beg to see the face of Christ. Patrick tells them that until they receive Communion and taste death, they cannot see Christ’s face. They reply: Give us the Communion so that we may see the Son, our Bridegroom.
They receive the Holy Eucharist and fall asleep in death. They are wrapped together in one shroud, and are greatly bewailed by their friends.
The Druid Caplait, the foster-father of one of the girls, comes to Patrick lamenting. Patrick preaches to him and he, too, believes, and is baptized and tonsured. The other Druid, Caplait’s brother Mael, comes to Patrick to tell him that he will bring his brother back to the pagan creed, but Patrick preaches to Mael also, and he, too, is converted, and tonsured.
The period of mourning then being over, the bodies of Ethne and Fidelma are buried near the well of Clebach. A circular ditch is dug around the burial place, as is customary (Tirechan adds) among the inhabitants of Ireland.
from Muirchu’s Life of Saint Patrick
Troparion of Ss Ethenia and Fidelmia
O daughters of King Laoghaire and first-fruits of Patrick’s mission,
most pious Ethenia and Fidelmia,
you were blessed to receive the monastic veil from Ireland’s Enlightener.
Weeping and lamenting we call upon your charity.
Pray to Christ our God
that He will raise up a new Patrick in our day,
that we may be led into the Way of Salvation.
Kontakion of Ss Ethenia and Fidelmia
Having been tonsured, O most pure and righteous virgins Ethenia and Fidelmia,
you were found worthy to tarry in this vale of tears
and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, just once,
before going to your eternal reward.
We chant your praises and implore Christ our God
that, in the day of Judgment,
He will not find us wanting.
St Patrick’s Ogulla Holy Well
in Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, Ireland
The Holy Tree & the Ogulla Holy Well which blessed by Saint Patrick
and has healing effects next to Holy Well Ogulla in Tulsk in Ireland
that Saints Ethenea & Fidelmia where baptized
Crossbace of an ancient Celtic Cross
next to St Patrick’s Ogulla Holy Well in Tulsk, Ireland
Photos from Co. Roscommon, Ireland