The Story of Saint Aengus

Aengus was born about the year 750 in Clonenagh, Co Laois on the brink of the river Eoir.

"It is at Clonenagh he was nursed;

At Clonenagh he was buried;

At Clonenagh of many crosses he read his Psalms First"

Nearby was the famous monastery founded by St. Fintan, and Aengus entered the monastery while he was still only a teenager. He quickly earned for himself the reputation of being very clever and very holy.

Aengus felt called by God in a special way, so he built himself a cell at Dysert, about six miles from the monastery of Clonenagh. There he prayed for long hours and practised penance. At this retreat, Aengus used to making 300 genuflections each day and of saying all the Psalter, that is the 150 Psalms from the Bible. He would say 50 psalms in his cell, another 50 under a nearby tree and the last 50 were said with half of his body plunged into cold water.

The fame of this holy man spread far and wide and soon many followers came from the four corners of Ireland to benefit from his wisdom and holiness. So many flocked to see and hear him that his whole way of life began to change. He didn't like this at all and he was no longer able to go into his cell and "pray to his father in secret". Because of all this excitement he decided to look for some quieter place. He decided to leave Clonenagh.

At the same time St. Maelruan was in charge of a great monastery in Tallaght. Aengus made his way to Tallaght. Maelruan's community was part of the Céile Dé movement. Céile Dé means spouses or clients of God, and the monks who were members wished to live a stricter life than other people. Aengus lived this simple way of life - praying, studying and living in community with the other monks. Nobody knew that he was famous in his own way until the secret got out as a result of his helping out students who had difficulties with their studies. After this Maelruan and Aengus became great friends and shortly afterwards Aengus was ordained priest.

St. Aengus is best known for the writings he has left. The most famous of these is the Féilire or "Calendar of Aengus". It is a hymn in the Irish language in praise of the saints and it lists all the main saints of Ireland.

Some years after the death of his friend St. Maelruan, Aengus returned to Clonenagh in County Laois and there he became Abbot of the Monastery. Aengus died a holy death on Friday, 11th. March 824 and was buried in Clonenagh.