January 15th - St. Ita of Limerick, Virgin
(Also known as Deirdre, Dorothy, Ida, Ide, Meda, Mida, Ytha)
Died c. 570. Saint Ita is the most famous woman saint in Ireland after
Brigid (f.d. February 1), and is known as the Brigid of Munster. She
is said to
have been of royal lineage, born in one of the baronies of Decies near
County Waterford, and called Deirdre.
An aristocrat wished to marry her, but after praying and fasting for
and with divine help, she convinced her father to allow her to lead
the life of
a maiden. She migrated to Hy Conaill (Killeedy), in the western part
Limerick, and founded a community of women dedicated to God, which
attracted many young women. She also founded and directed a school. It
that Bishop Saint Erc gave into her care Saint Brendan (f.d. May 16),
become a famous abbot and missionary (though the chronology makes this
unlikely). Many other Irish saints were taught by her for years. For
reason, she is often called "foster-mother of the saints of Ireland."
Brendan once asked her what three things God especially loved. She
"True faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a religious
open-handedness inspired by charity."
An Irish lullaby for the Infant Jesus is attributed to her. Saint
stresses her physical austerities. The principle mark of her devotion
indwelling of the Holy Trinity. Like other monastic figures of
spent much time in solitude, praying and fasting, and the rest of the
service to those seeking her assistance and advice.
She and her sisters helped to treat the sick of the area. Many
miracles are also
attributed to her including one in which she reattached the head to
the body of
a man who had been decapitated, and another that she lived only on
Although her life is overlaid by much unreliable material, because she
so popular and her "vita" was not written for centuries, there is no
doubt her existence. There are church dedications and place names that
her both in her birthplace and around her monastery. She is also
the poem of Blessed Alcuin (f.d. May 19), and her cultus is still
(Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Montague, Riain, Walsh,
------------ An extract from the entry on St. Ita in Edward Sellner's
Wisdom of the Celtic Saints."
Ita (also Ite or Ide) is, after Brigit, the most famous of Irish women
friends. Her hagiographer even describes her as "a second Brigit." A
sixth-century abbess, Ita founded a monastery in Country Limerick at
(which means Cell of Church of Ita). She came from the highly
respected clan of
the Deisi, and her father, like Brigit's, was resistant to her
becoming a nun.
After gaining his permission, Ita left home and settled at the foot of
Luachra, where other women from neighbouring clans soon joined her.
founded a monastic school for the education of small boys, one of whom
Brendan of Clonfert. She evidently had many students, for she is
"Foster-mother of the Saints of Erin."
Ita's original name, some claim, was Deirdre, but because of her
holiness she became known as Ita. This quality may have been what drew
women to join her monastery and families to send their sons to her.
her students to become acquainted with the saints as soul friends.
mentoring, Ita is associated with competence in healing and with an
that an angel had to warn her about.
Ita died in approximately 570. Her grave, frequently decorated with
in the ruins of a Romanesque church at Killeedy where her monastery
A holy well nearby, almost invisible now, was known for centuries for
smallpox in children and other diseases as well.
Ita's Qualities as a Child, and the Fiery Grace of God
Ita was born in Ireland of noble lineage, that is, of the stock of
Reachtmiher, by whom all Ireland was supremely ruled for many years
royal fort of Tara. He had three sons, Tiacha, Cond and Eochaid. Ita
was born of
the people called the Deisi, and from her baptism on she was filled
Holy Spirit. All marvelled at her childhood purity and behaviour, and
abstinence on the days she had to fast. She performed many miracles
was yet a small child, and when she could speak and walk she was
generous and mild toward everyone, gentle and chaste in her language,
God-fearing. She consistently attempted to overcome evil and always
did what she
could to promote good. As a young girl she lived at home with her
One day, while Ita was asleep in her room the whole place seemed to be
When her neighbours came to give assistance, however, the fire in her
seemed to have been extinguished. All marvelled at that, and it was
said that it
was the grace of God that burned about Ita as she slept. When she
arose from her
sleep, her whole appearance seemed to be angelic, for she had beauty
never been seen before or since. Her appearance was such that it was
of God that burned about her. After a short interval, her original
returned, which certainly was beautiful enough.
Ita's Dream and the Angel that Helped Discern Its Meaning
Another day when she went to sleep, Ita saw an angel of the Lord
and give her three precious stones. When she awoke she did not know
dream signified, and she had a question in her heart about it. Then an
appeared to her and said, "Why are you wondering about that dream?
precious stones you saw being given to you signify the coming of the
Trinity to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Always in your sleep and
angels of God and holy visions will come to you, for you are a temple
of God, in
body and soul." After saying this, the angel left her.
Ita's Desire to be Consecrated to Christ, and her Parents' Resistance
Another day Ita came to her mother and announced to her the divine
Holy Spirit had taught her. She asked her mother to seek her father's
so that she might consecrate herself to Christ. But her father was
opposed to what she desired. The request was also very displeasing to
mother, and when others added their petitions, Ita's father vehemently
permission. Then Ita, filled with the spirit of prophecy, said to all:
father alone for a while. Though he now forbids me to be consecrated
he will come to persuade me and eventually will order me to do so, for
be compelled by Jesus Christ my Lord to let me go wherever I wish to
And it happened as she had predicted. This is how it came about.
Not long afterward, Ita fasted for three days and three nights. During
days and nights, through dreams and vigils, it became clear that the
waging several battles against Ita. She, however, resisted him in
whether she slept or watched. One night, the devil, sad and grieving,
with these words: "Alas, Ita, you will free yourself from me, and many
too will be delivered."
Consider seriously how quickly people change, and how little trust is
to be had
in them; and hold fast to God, who does not change.
-St. Teresa of Avila
Of the fruit of his own mouth shall a man be filled with good things:
soul of transgressors is wicked. 3 He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth
but he that hath no guard on his speech shall meet with evils.
Saint Anthony, Liberator of Prisoners
Dear St. Anthony, I am imprisoned by walls of selfishness,
prejudice, suspicion. I am enslaved by human respect and
the fear of other people's opinions of me. St. Anthony,
Liberator of Prisoners, tear down my prison walls. Break the
chains that hold me captive. Make me free with the freedom
Christ has won for me. To your powerful intercession I also
recommend these intentions. (Name them.)