St Johnston - Carrigans     ~ Co Donegal.

St Baithin

St Baithin was a close friend of St Columkille and also his cousin.  They had a leader disciple relationship with Baithin as a disciple along with Eunan.

Baithin was born somewhere locally and his father was Brenainn.  His birth is believed to have taken place in about 536 AD. 

Baithin became a monk.  What kind of life did Baithin have as a monk?  Certainly a difficult one.  The asceticism of Irish monks and nuns seems to have originated in the deserts of Egypt and the Holy Land.  They devoted themselves to renouncing pleasure and to a life of study of the scriptures, poverty, chastity and celibacy and prayer.  Prayer was centred around the psalms and ejaculatory prayer.  They did some manual work such as farming and when necessary they did some pastoral work among the people.  They practiced very severe bodily mortification.  Fasting and infliction of pain and discomfort on the body were essentials.  Some monks slept on rough stones all night.  Others stood in freezing water at winter time. 

A major task undertaken in most monastic settlements was calligraphy and copying manuscripts.  Baithin was known as an extremely talented scribe.  St Columkille was a scribe himself and he died while copying the Book of Psalms.  He commissioned Baithin to finish the transcription for him.

We do not know what Baithin's theological views were.  We assume that they were essentially the same as his mentor Columbkille.  They would have taught the simple Christianity as understood by St Patrick.  The Bishop of Rome in time became the head of the Church and new teachings were added and the Church of Patrick, Columkille, Eunan and Baithin eventually negotiated to join the form of Christianity developed by Rome.

The Chief of Aileach gave Baithin some land and Baithin built a monastery on it.  The monastery probably in recognition that he was a saint was known as House of Baithin and became Taughboyne over time.  Despite the name House of Baithin it is difficult to imagine that the monks lived in the same building.  Usually it was small houses or huts around a church.

Columkille abbot of Iona in Scotland died there in 597.  Now the monastery was without an abbot.  Baithin took this role and died himself it is thought about 600 AD.

It is thought that the Vikings destroyed the monastery at Taughboyne about 200 years later.  That Baithin took it on himself to return to Ireland to visit his monastery at Taughboyne frequently may point to it having been a very successful and important institution.  A lot of monks may have lived there.  It was more than just love for home that brought Baithin on the treacherous, arduous and long journey back.

St Johnston held masses and pageants to celebrate the 1400th anniversary of Baithin's death in 2000.  A cross to commemorate the year was erected in summer 2000 in the grounds of St Johnston Roman Catholic Church.