Apostle of the Picts
"The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when She begins to again venerate Her own Saints" (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)
Moluag was one of the most outstanding missionaries to come out of Ireland
in the sixth century yet today he is little known.
An Irish nobleof the Dál nAraide (one of the main tribes of the Ulaid in what we now call Ulster), he was born between 500 and 520AD. We know that he was a bishop in about 552 and that he ordained St Comgal, his close kinsman, initially as a deacon then as a priest. Moluag persuaded St Comgal to found Bangor Abbey, in modern day Ulster. Having helped St Comgal set up this abbey, perhaps the greatest of all abbeys of its time, he took the road of red martyrdom and left with twelve followers to lead the life of a missionary.
In 562 he established his main base on what is now known as the Isle of Lismore (Lios Mor – the Great Monastery).
This had been the sacred island of the Western Picts whose capital was at Beregonium, across the water at Benderloch. Their kings were cremated on the ancient man made ‘burial mound’ of Cnoc Aingeil (Gaelic for ‘Hill of Fire’) at Bachuil, about three miles from the north of the island, near to the site that St Moluag chose for his first centre.
Lismore was the most important religious site to the pagan kings of the area. It was therefore the most desirable location for a missionary. Irish missionaries had learnt to focus heavily on the similarity and continuity between early Christianity and Paganism rather than the differences between them. The conversion process was therefore one of gradual education rather than outright confrontation and there were remarkably few martyrs in the area.
By the time of his death in 592, five years before St Augustine arrived at Canterbury, he had established over 100 monasteries mostly in the land of the Picts, those natives of what we now call Scotland that lived north of the Forth-Clyde divide.
He travelled extensively and was highly regarded, becoming the patron saint of the Royal House of Lorn and of the Kings of Man. He was truly the Apostle of the Picts.
His feast day is the 25th June.