Mél of Ardagh
|Mel of Ardagh|
|Patronage||Diocese of Ardagh and Clanmacnois|
Saint Mel or Moel was a 5th-century saint who was the son of Conis or Chonis and Darerca. Saint Darerca was a sister of Saint Patrick and was known as the "mother of saints" because most of her children (seventeen sons and two daughters) entered religious life, many were later recognized as saints, and several of her sons became bishops. Mel and his brothers Melchu, Munis and Rioch accompanied their uncle Patrick to Ireland and helped him with his missionary work there. Mel and his brother Melchu were both reportedly consecrated bishop by Patrick himself. After St Patrick built the church at Ardagh, he appointed Mel as Bishop of Ardagh. According to the Life of St. Brigid, Mel is said to have had no fixed see for most of his life in ministry, which fits with other accounts of his being a traveling missionary and evangelist. Acting upon the apostolic precept, Mel supported himself by working with his hands; what he gained beyond bare necessities, he gave to the poor.
Mel helped evangelize Ireland while supporting himself through manual labor. Patrick appointed Mel as one of the earliest Irish bishops and head of the Diocese of Ardagh. Mel also built the monastery of Ardagh where he was both bishop and abbot, and is said to have had the gift of prophecy. He accepted Saint Brigid of Kildare's profession as a nun, and served as her mentor while she was in Ardagh.
Mel lived with his aunt, Lupait, on her farm during a portion of his ministry, and rumor spread that their relationship was of a scandalous nature. St. Patrick went to investigate. Mel and Lupait both produced miracles to testify to their innocence: Mel plowed up a live fish in the middle of his field, and Lupait carried hot coals without being burned.
He died in 488.
There is a lot of confusing and conflicting evidence about the life of St. Mel, including the possibility that he and Melchu were the same person. Mel has a strong cultus in County Longford where he was the first abbot-bishop of a richly endowed monastery that flourished for centuries. The cathedral at Longford is dedicated to Mel, as is a college. A crozier, believed to have belonged to Saint Mel, was found in the 19th century at Ardagh near the old church of St Mel. The crozier is now kept in a darkened bronze reliquary that was once decorated with gilt and colored stones which was burned in the 2009 fire that destroyed the cathedral. He is the patron saint of the Roman Catholic diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.
St. Mel's feast day, February 7, has begun to be observed as a holiday for single people. "St. Mel's Day" is a chance for singles to celebrate the good things about being single. Traditions include sending yourself a St. Mel's Day card and for people to host parties for their single friends.
- Ryan, James. "Ardagh." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 15 Mar. 2013
- "Ardagh Heritage Village", County Longford Tourism
- O'Hanlon M.R.I.A., Rev. John, Lives of the Irish Saints, Vol. II, James Duffy and Sons, Dublin, 1875
- Grattan-Flood, William. "St. Brigid of Ireland." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 15 Mar. 2013
- "Commemoration of St. Mel of Ardagh", All Saints Parish
- Gardaí examine Longford cathedral ruins, RTÉ, 6 January 2010
- Masterson, Rachel. "Celebrating singledom on the feast of St Mel", Longford Leader, February 7, 2014