Baithéne mac Brénaind

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Saint Baithéne
Born 536
Died c. 600
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast October 6

Baithéne mac Brénaind (or Saint Baithen) was an Irish monk, specially selected by Saint Columba as one of the band of missionaries who set sail for what is now Scotland in 563.

Born in 536, the son of Brenan, he was an ardent disciple of Columba, and was appointed Abbot of Tiree, a monastery founded by Saint Comgall of Bangor. Saint Adomnán, in recording the death of ₥Columba, tells us that the dying words of the Apostle of Iona, as he was transcribing Psalm 53, were: "I must stop here, let Baithéne write what follows". Baithéne had been looked on as the most likely successor of Columba, and so it happened that on the death of that great apostle, in 596, the monks unanimously confirmed the choice of their founder. Baithéne was in high esteem as a wise counsellor, and his advice was sought by many Irish saints, including Saint Fintán of Taghmon.

Abbey St Bathans in Berwickshire (south east Scotland) may be named after him.

Hagiography from Saint Adamnan[edit]

Adomnán, the biographer of Columba, tells many interesting incidents in the life of Baithéne, but the mere fact of being the immediate successor of St. Columba, by the express wish of that apostle, is almost sufficient to attest his worth. The "Martyrology of Donegal" records the two following anecdotes. When Baithéne partook of food, before each morsel he invariably recited Deus in adjutorium meum intende. Also, "when he worked in the fields, gathering in the corn along with the monks, he used to hold up one hand towards Heaven, beseeching God, while with the other hand he gathered the corn".

Baithéne of Iona is generally known as Baithéne Mór, to distinguish him from eight other saints of the same name—the affix mor meaning "the Great". He wrote a life of his master, and some Irish poems, which are now lost, but which were seen by Adomnán. He only ruled Iona three years, as his death took place in the year 600, though the "Annals of Ulster" give the date as 598. Perhaps the true year may be 599. His feast is celebrated on October 6.

Some writers assert that Baithéne of Iona is the patron of Ennisboyne, County Wicklow, but this is owing to a confusion with Saint Baoithin, or Baithéne mac Findech, whose feast is commemorated on 22 May. Another Saint Baoithin, son of Cuana, whose feast is on 19 February, is patron of Tibohin, in Elphin.


Preceded by
Abbot of Iona
Succeeded by