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Saint Malachy

As on 26 May 2014

Taken from: Wikipedia - Saint Malachy


Saint Malachy (Middle Irish: Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair; Modern Irish: Maelmhaedhoc Ó Morgair) (1094 – 2 November 1148) was an Irish saint and Archbishop of Armagh, to whom were attributed several miracles and an alleged vision of 112 Popes later attributed to the apocalyptic list of Prophecy of the Popes. He was the first native born Irish saint to be canonised.


Viking raids on Ireland began around the start of the 9th century. 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 Christian religious observance 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.[1]


Malachy, whose family name was Ua Morgair, was born in Armagh in 1094. St. Bernard describes him as having noble birth.[2] He was baptised Máel Máedóc (Malachy) and was trained under Imhar O'Hagan, subsequently Abbot of Armagh. After a long course of studies he was ordained priest by St Cellach (Celsus) in 1119. To perfect himself in sacred liturgy and theology, he proceeded to Lismore, where he spent nearly two years under St Malchus. He was then chosen Abbot of Bangor, in 1123. A year later, he was consecrated Bishop of Down and Connor, and, in 1132, he was promoted to the primacy of Armagh.

St Bernard gives us many interesting anecdotes regarding St Malachy, and highly praises his zeal for religion both in Connor and Armagh. In 1127 he paid a second visit to Lismore and acted for a time as confessor to Cormac MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond. While Bishop of Down and Connor, he continued to reside at Bangor, and when some of the native princes sacked the two dioceses of Down and Connor, he brought the Bangor monks to Iveragh, County Kerry, where they were welcomed by now King Cormac. On the death of St Celsus (who was buried at Lismore in 1129), St Malachy was appointed Archbishop of Armagh, 1132, which dignity he accepted with great reluctance. Owing to intrigues, he was unable to take possession of his See for two years; even then he had to purchase the Bachal Isu (Staff of Jesus) from Niall, the usurping lay-primate.[2]

The influence of St Malachy in Irish ecclesiastical affairs has been compared with that of Boniface in Germany. During three years at Armagh, as Bernard of Clairvaux writes, St Malachy restored the discipline of the Church, grown lax during the intruded rule of a series of lay-abbots, and had the Roman Liturgy adopted.[2] He worked zealously to restore ecclesiastical discipline, restored marriage, renewed the practice of confession and confirmation, and introduced Roman chants in the liturgy. He was also known for his care to the needy as a miracle worker and healer. In his lifetime, he planted apple trees throughout Ireland during time of famine.[3]

St Bernard continues: Having extirpated barbarism and re-established Christian morals, seeing all things tranquil he began to think of his own peace. He therefore resigned the Sees of Armagh and Connor, in 1136 or 1137, but retained as Bishop of Down. He founded a priory of Austin Canons at Downpatrick, and was unceasing in his episcopal labours. Early in 1139 he journeyed to Rome, via Scotland, England, and France, visiting St Bernard at Clairvaux. He petitioned Pope Innocent II for pallia for the Sees of Armagh and Cashel, and was appointed legate for Ireland. On his return visit to Clairvaux he obtained five monks for a foundation in Ireland, under Christian, an Irishman, as superior: thus arose the great Abbey of Mellifont in 1142. St Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome in 1148, but on arriving at Clairvaux he fell sick, and died in the arms of St Bernard, on 2 November 1148.


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.[1]

St Malachy's feast is celebrated on 3 November, so as not to clash with All Souls Day.


St. Malachy's body remained at Clairvaux Abbey and eventually was placed in a tomb near Bernard of Clairvaux's, after the abbot's own death. The tomb was moved several times with the rebuilding of the church. Portions of his remains were sent to Ireland in 1194 and deposited at Mellifont Abbey and other abbeys of the Cistercians . At some point at Clairvaux, part of Malachy's arm and part of his skull were removed and placed in special reliquaries in the treasury of the abbey. His arm was kept in a silver case decorated with precious stones. A portion of his skull was kept in a bust reliquary of gilt silver also decorated with precious stones and topped by a mitre. These reliquaries may have been enameled or painted. During the French Revolution, the reliquaries themselves were destroyed, although the relics were preserved. Malachy's head is now preserved in a reliquary in the treasury of Troyes Cathedral, not far from the site of Clairvaux. The tombs of the two friends and saints were destroyed in the aftermath of the revolution, and the bones were mixed together distributed to various parishes in the district of Clairvaux.[4] An account of the relics was provided by Ph. Guignard and published in the Patrologia Latina.[5]


Malachy is Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Down and Connor. Saint Malachy's Church, Belfast was intended to be the Cathedral Church of Down and Connor dedicated in honour of the Diocesan Patron. However, the Irish Famine broke out and the grand plans for the Saint Malachy's Cathedral were shelved to divert funds to the needy.

A number of parishes are dedicated to St. Malachy, including those in Burlington, Massachusetts; Brownsburg, Indiana; Kennedy Township and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[6]

Prophecy of the Popes

A "Prophecy of the Popes" is attributed to St. Malachy, which is claimed to predict that there would be only 112 more popes before the Last Judgment. The Prophesy was discovered and published by Benedictine Arnold de Wyon in 1590. Most scholars consider the document a 16th-century elaborate hoax.[7] James Weiss, a professor of church history at Boston College has stated "It is widely thought ... given who the author was and his relationship, [that the prophecies] were published to establish the case for election of one particular cardinal."[8] Dr. Thomas Groome, chair of the Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College, has a similar notion: "For myself – and even as a native Irishman – the 'Prophecies of St. Malachy' are a grand old fun tale that have about as much reliability as the morning horoscope".[8] Thomas J. Reese, SJ, of Georgetown University, had only this to say: "St. Malachy's prophecy is nonsense."[8]


1. a b "Who Is Saint Malachy?", Saint Malachy Parish, Burlington, Massachusetts
2. a b c Grattan-Flood, William. "St. Malachy." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 25 May 2013
3. "Who Was St. Malachy?", Saint Malachy Catholic Church, Kennedy Township, Pennsylvania
4. O'Hanlon, John. The Life of St. Malachy O'Morgair. Dublin: John O'Daly, 1859, pp. 188-213.
5. Migne, PL 185 bis, pp. 1661-1798.
6. St. Malachy Parish, Brownsburg, Indiana
7. Lorenzi, Rossella. "Resigning Pope Brings Doomsday Prophecy", Discovery News, 13 February 2013
8. a b c Sieczkowski, Cavan. "St. Malachy Last Pope Prophecy: What Theologians Think About 12th-Century Prediction", Huffington Post, 19 February 2013