Saint Macartan belongs to a very early generation of saints in Ireland. Students at St. Macartan's know his story and that he was a very good friend to St. Patrick. He was known as Saint Patrick’s “Strong Man” for his dedication and faithfulness. St. Macartan's Feast Day is commemorated on the 24th of March and is celebrated each year.
Saint Macartan grew up in the northern part of Ireland. Before his conversion to Christianity, the future saint was known by the name Aidus. He was the son of Caerthen and so continues to be known after his conversion as Macartan.
When he heard of Saint Patrick’s mission, Aidus travelled south from his father’s home to hear him preach. He first met Saint Patrick at Drumlease, near Dromahair, Co Leitrim. There Macartan was baptised and soon became one of Saint Patrick’s missionaries.
He was spoken of as Saint Patrick’s “champion” or “strong man”. It is said that when Saint Patrick was worn out by his work, Saint Macartan supported his faltering steps by carrying him, slung over his shoulders, over rough roads, marshes and rivers.
He was the “Staff of Patrick” in Saint Patrick’s declining years. One story tells of an occasion when he had carried Saint Patrick across a river. Saint Macartan was weary from the constant missionary travel and wished for permission to settle down and practise his faith. Saint Patrick was full of sympathy for his faithful companion and agreed that he should establish a monastery in Clogher and end his days there.
Although Macartan missed accompanying his beloved master, Patrick, he knew devoting himself to prayer, study, singing, creating religious artworks and farming continued Patrick’s work. He also travelled with other monks to surrounding areas teaching, administering sacraments, visiting the sick and burying the dead.
During these years a number of miracles are accorded to Macartan:
This monastery was established near the ancient royal fort of Rathmore on the outskirts of the town and so, it is said, the Diocese of Clogher has its beginning in the year 454.
To commemorate the occasion, the story continues, Saint Patrick gave Saint Macartan his staff or crozie and a number of precious relics in a shrine known traditionally as the Domhnach Airgrid. The Cloch Oir or Golden Stone, is said to have been a sacred ceremonial stone from the Druids. It was given to Macartan by an old pagen noble, who had harassed Macartan in every possible way until the saint’s patient love won the ruler to the Christian Faith.
Saint Macartan died in the year 506 and his feast day is celebrated on 24th March. In 2006, the 1500th anniversary of this, was commemorated.
The Domhnach Airgid, now in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, contains fragments of 39 sheets of Gospels, written in distinctively Irish lettering of the eighth or ninth century. On the cover of the Domhnach Airgid is one of the earliest surviving metalwork images of Saint Patrick. Around 1350, the Abbot of Clones, John OÇarbry, paid for a substantial remodeling of the Domhnach Airgid. The figure of Saint Patrick is thought to be at the lower right of the corner. In the lower left, Saint Patrick may be handing the Domhnach Airgid to Saint Macartan.
The two cathedrals in the Church of Ireland Diocese of Clogher are named after him, albeit with different spellings: Saint Macartan’s Clogher and Saint Macartin’s Enniskillen as well as two large Catholic schools, one of which carries the motto attributed to St Macartan: “Fortis et Fidelis” which translates to “strong and faithful”.
God, our Father,
Creator of all good things in the world
and within our school, St. Macartan's.
We thank you for the gift of this day,
for our families and friends
and for this safe place to learn and grow.
We ask you to bless all who teach and learn.
Through Your Holy Spirit,
guide us as we grow in truth, faith and love.
We ask this, through Jesus Christ our Lord.