St. Eithne, styled "of the golden hair", is commemorated in the Irish martyrologies under the 11th of January. She was daughter of Leoghaire, Ard-Righ, or Hy-Sovereign of Ireland at the time of St. Patrick's first visit, as a missionary, to the court of Tara (433). According to the prevailing custom of those days the children of kings and princes were frequently placed, at an early age, in charge of the family of some of the chieftains who coveted the honour of guardianship of the royal offspring. Hence it was assumed that Eithne and her younger sister were fostered close to Cruachan Magh Ai, the dwelling-place, or royal residence, of the Gaelic kings of Connaught. However the brief story of the saint's life centres in the one scene, which took place beside the brook of Clebach, County Roscommon, and is described in the "Acts" of the national apostle of Ireland.
On his way to the royal abode, during his mission to the western province, it is told that St. Patrick and his disciples camped one evening close to the Well of Clebach. On the following day the clerics rose at dawn to chant the Divine Office, and prepare for the mystic sacrifice. It would appear that the two royal princesses were accustomed to visit the same fountain in the early morn, and on this occasion were surprised at the appearance of the strange company who were in possession of the place. They were not, however, dismayed, and Eithne, the elder of the sisters, accosted Patrick and his companions, asking who they were and whence they came. Whereupon the apostle said -- "It were better for you to confess your faith in our true God than ask about our race." Then, at their request, St. Patrick unfolded to them the doctrines of Christianity , which, under the influence of Divine grace, they accepted with heart and soul. Having baptized them, the saint placed on their brows the veil of virginity.
Then, it is related, Eithne and her sister asked "to see the face of Christ, the Son of the true God ", but Patrick said: "You cannot see the face of Christ unless you taste death, and receive the Sacrifice ". Whereupon they besought him to give them the Sacrifice that they might see their Spouse, the Son of God. So, by the brink of the fountain, the Sacrifice was offered, and having received their First Communion, Eithne and her sister, in an ecstasy of rapture, swooned away and died. When the days of mourning were ended both were laid side by side, close by the scene of their death, where afterwards a church was raised over the grave.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online