From James Henthorn Todd's Memoir of St. Patrick:
The two saints Finnen or Finnian viz., Finnian of Cluain Eraird now Clonard County of Meath and Finnian or Finnbarr of Magh Bile now Moville on the banks of Lough Foyle County of Donegal are given in the catalogue as the first in the list of saints of the second order. The former St Finnian of Clonard was the master of a celebrated school which is said to have produced three thousand disciples. Thus the hymn ad laudes in the Office of St Finnian printed at Paris 1620 and reprinted by Colgan(1) says,-
Trium virorum millium
Sorte fit Doctor humilis
Verbi his fudit fluvium
Ut fons emanans rivulis
And although we may reasonably doubt the authenticity of so large a number it is certain that the school of Clonard was the alma mater of many eminent ecclesiastics. In the Martyrology of Donegal(2) and by the Four Masters(3) this St Finnian is called Tutor (oidhe or foster father) of the saints of Ireland. The Latin author of his life tells us particularly that the celebrated saints who were called the twelve apostles of Ireland together with many others(4) were of his disciples.
We read also(5) that after having been initiated in ecclesiastical learning by St. Fortchern of Trim if this be not an anachronism and afterwards by St. Caiman of Dair inis, an island in the bay of Wexford, Finnian passed over to Kill muine or Menevia(6) afterwards called St. David's and became the associate or disciple the three eminent saints David Cathmael and Gildas.
Cathmael was the original baptismal name the Welsh Saint Cadoc(7) or Cattwg as we learn from his life there cannot therefore be a doubt that the three Welsh preceptors of St. Finnian were the same as the three David Gildas and Docus(8) or Cadocus from whom the Irish saints of the second order are said in the catalogue to have received their masses or liturgies.(9) When about to leave his Welsh associates St. Finnian we are told resolved upon a pilgrimage to Rome but was warned by an angel to proceed rather to his own country where God would receive his intention as equivalent to the pilgrimage he had meditated and grant him the same merits as if he had visited Rome. And accordingly he set out for Ireland to gather together there as his Latin biographer(10) tells us a people acceptable to the Lord In another Life extant in manuscript in the Irish language the same story is told more briefly but with a particular circumstance of some interest which is omitted in the Latin After relating the miraculous defeat of an invading party of Saxons(11) St Finnian with a stroke of his baculus or pastoral staff having caused a mountain to fall upon them the Irish author(12) proceeds After this a desire seized Finnian to go to Rome when he had completed his education But an angel of God came to him and said unto him What would be given to thee at Rome says he shall be given to thee here Arise and renew sound doctrine and faith in Ireland after Patrick This must mean the doctrine and faith which had become corrupted since St Patrick's time It is so understood in the office of St Finnian reprinted(13) by Colgan where we read that when he was meditating a pilgrimage to Rome he was persuaded by an angel to return to Ireland to restore the faith which had fallen into neglect after the death of St Patrick We shall see reason presently to accept this as the real meaning of our author.
(1) Colgan Actt SS Hib p. 401
(2) Donegal At Dec 12
(3) Four Masters At AD 548 (=549 at which year they tell us that he died)
(4) Others Colgan has enumerated 32 eminent saints who were educated in his school Actt SS p 405 App c 3 See also Reeves Adamnan p. 195 note b. The twelve apostles of Ireland were the following 1 Ciaran or Kieran bishop and abbat of Saighir now Seir Kieran King's Co., 2 Ciaran or Kieran abbat of Clomnacnois, 3 Columcille of Hy, 4 Brendan bishop and abbat of Clonfert, 5 Brendan bishop and abbat of Birr now Parsonstown King's Co., 6 Columba abbat of Tirdaglas, 7 Molaise or Laisre abbot of Dam hinis now Devenish island in Loch Erne, 8 Cainnech abbat of Achadh bo, Queen's Co., 9 Ruadan or Rodan abbat of Lorrha Co Tipperary, 10 Mobi Clairenech or the flat faced abbat of Glasnaoidhen now Glasnevin near Dublin, 11 Senell abbat of Cluain inis in Loch Erne, and 12 Nannath or Nennith abbat and bishop of Inis muige samh now Inis mac Saint in Loch Erne.
(5) Also Vit S Finniani c 4 Colgan Actt SS p 393
(6) Menevia In Welsh Hen meneu translated Vetus rubus Muine in Irish and meneu in Welsh signify a bramble bush
(7) St Cadoc Vita S Cadoci ed WJ Rees Lives of Cambro British Saints pp 25-27. This legend represents the name as given by Divine command. A voice came at night to the saint's father predicting that a holy hermit would arrive on the following day to baptize the child nomenque ejus Cat mail vocabitur. A fountain springs up miraculously and in its water the child is baptized by the hermit who is said to have been an Irishman by name Meuthi Postquam autem beatus Meuthi cum solum saltantem conspexit alacriori gau dens animo maturius eundem in ipso sacro fonte baptizavit atque pro precepto angelico nomen ei Cath mail imposuit. The Irish hermit here called Meuthi is evidently the same who in other authorities is termed Tathai and Thaddeus. Colgan Actt SS p 158 c 2 The Life of S Tatheus published by WJ Rees Lives of Cambro British Saints p. 255 expressly identifies him with the tutor of Cadoc Ussher places the school of Tathai at the year 469 Ind. Chr. and Works vol v, p. 116 quoting the authority of John of Timnuth.
(8) Docus The Annals of Ulster at the year 473 mention the death of Doccus a British bishop and ab bat Quies Docci episcopi sancti Britonum abbatis. But this can scarcely be the Docus from whom the second order of saints derived their Mass for the second order are expressly said to have flourished from the close of the reign of Tuathal Maelgarbh ob. 544 to that of Aodh son of Ainmire ob. 599.
(9) Liturgies. It is remarkable that St Cannech or Canice of Kilkenny is said to have been educated by St. Doc or Docus in Wales: "Perrexit trans mare in Britanniam ad virum sapientem et religiosissimum Doc a Docum legitque apud illum sedule et bonos mores didicit et erat valde humilis et obediens" Vit. S. Cannachi p. 3 Dubl. 1853. This Life was privately printed 100 copies only by the Marquis of Ormonde from a MS preserved in the Burgundian Library Brussels collated with another in Abp. Marsh's Library Dublin.
(10) Biographer. "Ut ibi populum Deo acceptabilem acquireret" Vit. S. Finniani c xi-xi Colgan Actt. SS. p. 394 The Latin Life published by Colgan consists of two parts The first is evidently older than the other and ends with the words Haec de primo libro vitae ejus ex cerpta sunt shewing that it is only an extract from a larger work The second part consists entirely of legends of miracles and was wr1tten after the Catalogue of the Three Orders of Saints which it quotes It begins Igitur Finnianus opti mus sanctorum secundi ordinis abbas volens multiplicare cultum Dei altissimi &c
(11) Saxons. The story is told in the Latin Life c. 8 Colgan loc. cit.
(12) Irish Author. There is a good copy of the Irish Life in the Book Lismore a MS in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. The Latin author as printed by Colgan although he evidently made use of the Irish of which he frequently adopts the order and often the very expressions omits all allusion to the coruption of the faith in Ireland since St. Patrick's times.
(13) Reprinted Colgan Actt. SS. p. 401. This Office with the Offices of Patrick Columcille Brigid &c was originaly printed at Paris in 1620 under the editorship of Thomas Messingham. The following are the passages above alluded to in 2do Nocturno Lect. vi "Tandem Romam meditanti in Hibemiam reditum Angelus Domini suasit, ad fidem post B. Patricii obitum neglectam restaurandam &c." Finnian is also evidently alluded to as a reformer in the "Hymnus in utrisque ves peris Refulsit sol justidae Quae Pius fuit sub nubilo Cleri contubernia Reformantur divinitus &c." Colg. ib. p. 400.