Friday, September 26, 2014


Modomnoc O'Neil B
Also known as Domnoc, Dominic, Modomnock

St. Modomnoc

Feast day: February 13

Death: 550

Irish bishop and a disciple of St. David of Wales. Sometimes called Domnoc or Dominic, he was a member of the royal Irish family of ONeil and ended his years as a hermit at Tibraghny in Kilkenny When Modomnoc returned to Ireland after studying with St. David, swarms of bees left Wales to follow him, thus supposedly being introduced to Ireland.

The story goes that Modomnoc, descended of the Irish royal line of O'Neil, had to leave Ireland to train for the priesthood, since he was a student before the creation of the great Irish monasteries. He crossed the English Channel to be educated under the great Saint David at Mynyw Menevia, now Saint David'sMonastery in Wales. All the pupils had to work in the fields, garden, or in building, in addition to attending to their studies.

 Modomnoc was given charge of the bees and he loved it. And so did everyone else--they all loved honey, but few like taking charge of the hives. Modomnoc liked the bees almost more than he liked their honey. He cared for them tenderly, keeping them in straw skeps in a special sheltered corner of the garden, where he planted the kinds of flowers best loved by the bees.

 Every time they swarmed, he captured the swarm very gently and lovingly and set up yet another hive. He talked to the bees as he worked among them and they buzzed around his head in clouds as if they were responding. And, of course, they never stung him. At the end of summer, they gave him loads and loads of honey, so much that Modomnoc needed help carrying it all inside. The monks
never seemed to run out of honey for their meals or making mead to drink. The good Modomnoc thanked God for his success, and he also thanked the bees. He would walk among the skeps in the evening and talk to them, and the bees, for their part, would crowd out to meet
him. All the other monks carefully avoided that corner of the monastery garden because they were afraid of being stung.
As well as thanking the bees, Modomnoc did everything he could to care for them in cold and storm. Soon his year's of study ended, and Modomnoc had to return to Ireland to begin his priestly
ministry. While he was glad to be returning home, he knew he would be lonely for his bees. On the day of his departure, he said good- bye to David, the monks, and his fellow students. Then he went down to the garden to bid farewell to his bees.

 They came out in the hundreds of thousands in answer to his voice and never was there such a buzzing and excitement among the rows and rows of hives. The monks stood at a distance watching the commotion in wonder, "You'd think the bees knew," they said. "You'd think they knew that Modomnoc was going away."  Modomnoc resolutely turned and went down to the shore and embarked the ship. When they were about three miles from the shore, Modomnoc saw what looked like a little black cloud in the sky in the direction of the Welsh coast. He watched it curiously and as it approached nearer, he saw to his amazement that it was a swarm of bees that came nearer and nearer until finally it settled on the edge of the boat near him. It was a gigantic swarm--all the bees
from all the hives, in fact. The bees had followed him! This time Modomnoc did not praise his friends. "How foolish of you," he scolded them, "you do not belong to me but to David's monastery! How do you suppose the monks can do without honey, or mead? Go back at once, you foolish creatures!" But if the bees understood what he said, they did not obey him. They settled down
on the boat with a sleepy kind of murmur, and there they stayed. The sailors did not like it one bit and asked Modomnoc what he intended to do.

 He told them to turn the boat back for Wales. It was already too far for the bees to fly back, even if they wanted to obey him. He could not allow his little friends to suffer for their foolishness.
But the wind was blowing the boat to Ireland and when they turned back, the sail was useless. The sailors had to furl it and row back to the Welsh coast. They did it with very bad grace, but they were
too much afraid of the bees to do anything else.

 David and the monks were very surprised to see Modomnoc coming back and looking rather ashamed. He told them what had happened. The moment the boat had touched land again, he bees had made straight for their hives and settled down contentedly again. "Wait until tomorrow," advised the abbot, "but don't say farewell to the bees again. They will be over the parting by then."

 Next morning, the boat was again in readiness for Modomnoc and this time he left hurriedly without any fuss of farewell. But when they were about three miles from the shore, he was dismayed to see
again the familiar little black cloud rising up over the Welsh coast. Everyone recognized the situation and the sailors turned back to shore immediately.

 Once more the shamefaced Modomnoc had to seek out David and tell his story. "What am I to do?" he pleaded. "I must go home. The bees won't let me go without them. I can't deprive you of them. They are so useful to the monastery."  David laughed and said, "Modomnoc, I give you the bees. Take them with my blessing. I am sure they would not thrive without you anyhow. Take them. We'll get other bees later on for the monastery."

 The abbot went down to the boat and told the sailors the same story. "If the bees follow Modomnoc for the third time, take them to Ireland with him and my blessing." But it took a long time and a
great deal of talking to get the sailors to agree to this. They did not care who had the bees as long as they weren't in their boat. Bees, they explained, were the kind of passengers they never
wanted. If they gave trouble on the boat and no one could sail it, they might all be drowned. Anything but bees, they said. Wild animals, okay; bee, no.

The abbot assured the sailors that the bees would give no trouble as long as Modomnoc was around. The sailors asked, if that were so, why the bees did not obey Modomnoc's command to return to the
monastery. After much back and forth, the sailors were finally persuaded into starting out again.
 For the third time the boat set sail, Modomnoc praying hard that the bees would have the sense to stay in their pleasant garden rather than risking their lives at sea. For the third time he saw the dreaded little black cloud rising up in the distance, approaching nearer and nearer until he saw it was the same swarm of bees again. It settled on the boat once more. This time it did not turn back. Modomnoc coaxed his faithful friends into a sheltered corner of the boat, where they remained quietly throughout the journey, much to the sailors' relief.

 When he landed in Ireland, he set up a church at a place called Bremore, near Balbriggan, in County Dublin, and here he established the bees in a happy garden just like the one they had in Wales. The
place is known to this day as "the Church of the Beekeeper." Some say that he became a hermit at Tibraghny in Kilkenny and later bishop .

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