St Nathy (6th century) holy man and patron of Achonry diocese
09 August, 2012
The image (left) shows the present Catholic Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy at Ballaghdereen, Co Roscommon. St Nathy was a native of Leyney in Co Sligo. A pupil of St Finian of Clonard, he had a reputation for holiness. St Finian put him in charge of a monastery at Achonry. It is probably […]
The image (left) shows the present Catholic Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy at Ballaghdereen, Co Roscommon. St Nathy was a native of Leyney in Co Sligo. A pupil of St Finian of Clonard, he had a reputation for holiness. St Finian put him in charge of a monastery at Achonry. It is probably for this reason that, sometime after the diocese was formally erected at the Synod of Kells in 1152, Nathy was named as the patron of Achonry diocese. Patrick Duffy explains his place in the Irish Church.
Along with Saint Attracta, St Nathy is patron of the diocese of Achonry. Achonry (Irish Achadh Chonaire, “the field of Conaire”) is a village between Ballymote and Tubbercurry in Co Sligo and was the site of the original monastic foundation in the area. The diocese was formally erected by the Synod of Kells (1152) and includes parishes from the counties of Sligo, east Mayo and north-west Roscommon.
A church of the people during Penal times
From 1603 till the mid-eighteenth century the diocese had no resident bishop. During this time of persecution, the faith was preserved by the people without churches or institutional infrastructure – in their homes, through house Masses, christenings, confessions, wakes, “patterns” and pilgrims to holy wells.
Only in the mid-nineteenth century under Bishop Patrick Durcan (1852-75) was the diocesan see transferred to Ballaghdereen, Co Roscommon and the Cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy built there.
The Church of Ireland Cathedral of St Crumnathy is still located at Achonry.
Native of Leyney, Co Sligo
Few details are known from records about the life of Saint Nathy or, as he is often called, Crumther Nathy or Cromnathy (Irish Cruimhthir, a priest). He was a native of Lugne territory, now commensurate with the barony of Leyny in Co Sligo.
In charge of monastery at Achonry
He studied under St Finian at Clonard, who established a monastery at Achonry shortly before his death in 552. Finian appointed his pupil Nathy in charge of the monastery, which became a school of piety and learning. St Fechin, probably born in the locality, was its most famous disciple; he went on to found his own monastery at Fore in Co Westmeath.
The Félire of Oengus tells us St Nathy is buried at Achadh Cain. His feast day – along with St Felim of Kilmore – is kept on 9th August.
In his two volume History of County Sligo (1889), local historian Archdeacon Terence O’Rorke wrote:
Other Irish saints are noted for characteristic virtues: Columbkille for love of churches, Finian of Clonard for zeal in teaching, Brendan for pious voyages, Columbanus and others for missionary activity; but the patron of Achonry shines chiefly by preeminent sanctity. It is a great distinction.