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In 1603, a ship laden with provisions and munitions of war. which was despatched by Philip II., of Spain, to Hugh O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell, was wrecked on the coast of Clare. Among the valuable cargo lost in the wreck was a small image or statuette of the Blessed Virgin, made of odoriferous wood, of beautiful workmanship, which floated about on the surface of the ocean for three years, when it was observed by some fishermen, who endeavoured to possess themselves of it, but in vain, as it invariably eluded all their efforts to do so. It was observed to appear more conspicuously, and with great lustre, on every Saturday, and seldom on any other day; so that singular circumstance excited the curiosity of the fishermen, and caused them to redouble their exertions. Turlough Roe McMahon, Lord of Corkavaskin, in Thomond, interested himself in the matter, and having prepared a boat, sent a Franciscan Friar, who was attracted to that neighbourhood by the report of the wonderful image, accompanied by the fisherman who made the relation in quest of it; who, having found the sacred relic, returned with great joy. It was delivered at once to the safe keeping of Turlough.
Margaret O'Brien, Lady Dunboyne, and sister to the Earl of Thomond, no sooner heard of this statue than she despatched a messenger to Turlough, entreating him in the most earnest terms, and by the ties of blood and friendship that connected them, to bestow on her the holy image. She was gratified. Bernard Fulow, Abbot of Holycross, considering of what spiritual advantage the possession of so great a treasure would be to his abbey, directed his steps to the pious lady, and having represented to her that the legitimate depository for such a miraculous relic was the Abbey of the Holycross, where it could be publicly visited by, and receive the veneration of, the faithful-that many benefits would thereby accrue to religion—that it was but meet that so favored an effigy of the Virgin Mother should be preserved on the same altar, with a portion of the sacred cross on which her Divine Son had suffered, and, finally, that the monastery had special claims on her ladyship, as it had been originally founded, endowed, and protected by one of her royal ancestors. Influenced, no doubt, by these representations, the good lady presented the relic to the Abbot, who, having reverently wrapped it in fine linen, returned to his abbey. Fearing, however, to expose it publicly on the altar, lest the fame of it might attract a concourse of people to the church, and thereby expose the community to renewed vexations, he hid it in a heap of corn in a barn at Ballycormac (now Cormackstown). In this place of security it remained, until the storm of persecution somewhat
subsiding, it was conveyed to the Abbey, and there, in a private manner, exposed to the veneration of the people.
After the death of Abbot Fulow, his successor had it enclosed in a richly gilt tabernacle of carved wood, and placed on the high altar; where, in 1634, on the occasion of its being newly gilt, a minute fragment detached from it effected a cure on a patient residing near the Abbey.
This relic has been long since lost. There has been no recollection of it within the memory of man.
In the interval that elapsed between the death of Abbot Fulow and the appointment of his successor, several of the secular clergy strenuouly exerted themselves to obtain the dignity of commendatory Abbot of Holycross; but all their efforts to attain their object were frustrated by the appointment of Luke Archer to the office of Abbot in 1611.
Luke Archer was born in 1570, at Kilkenny, of the ancient and respectable house of the Archers of that city. He repaired to Lisbon at an early age, where, having pursued his ecclesiastical studies with great success and received Holy Orders, he returned to his native city in 1594, and immediately after was appointed Archdeacon of Ossory, and a few years subsequently parish priest of St. Patrick's, by Dr. Thomas Strange, then Bishop of that See. On the recommendation of Dr. Dermid Creagh, Bishop of Cork, he was promoted to the dignity of Guardian, and subsequently to that of Vicar-Apostolic of the diocese of Loughlin, the Bishop of which had been in exile.
After ministering for sixteen years as a secular Priest in his native city, he resolved to retire from the world and devote the remaining years of his life in the seclusion of the cloister. Accordingly, in the year 1610, he embraced the Cistercian Institute, and on taking the habit of that order, on the 7th of October of the following year, was created Abbot of Holy
On his elevation to this dignity, he resigned all his preferments in the Church, but finding that the time had not yet arrived, when he could with safety take possession of his Abbey, he prudently determined to remain at Kilkenny till a more favorable opportunity presented itself.
Meanwhile, he was elected Provincial and Vicar-General of his order on the 18th September, 1618. This office imposed new responsibilities. He at once commenced the visitation of his province and exerted all his energies to re-establish the defunct houses of his order in Ireland. In furtherance of his object, he made long and painful journeys through the country, visiting the ruins, and appointing ad interim superiors to them
till the dawn of a more tolerant period admitted of their restoration. During this visitation he had to encounter much hostility and opposition from the commendatory Abbots and such other secular clergymen, as aspired to that distinction, or had been appointed by their ordinaries to the cure of souls, in parishes attached to the suppressed Abbeys. Among others, the Rev. David Henesy, whose appointment to the parish of Holycross in 1599, we have previously noticed, refused to receive jurisdiction from him, maintaining that he needed no other title than that derived from his ordinary, the Archbishop of Cashel. The Abbot insisted on the original and inherent right of the Abbots of Holycross to appoint to the parish and other dependencies of the Abbey. The Parish Priest persisted in his view, and was supported by the Vicar-General of the diocese. As a last resource, the Abbot had recourse to excommunication, and delegated the Very Rev. Matthew Roche, afterwards Vicar-Apostolic of Leighlin, to pronounce the sentence, which he did among the ruins of the monastery. This extreme measure was not for some time attended with the results anticipated. Notwithstanding the censure, Father Henesy continued to officiate in the Abbey, and the Vicar General of the diocese sustained him in his opposition, by publicly assisting at Mass and recommending the faithful to do so. During this unhappy controversy, the Abbot produced, in support of his right, a letter written to him on the part of Dr. O'Kearney, Archbishop of Cashel, intimating that he had given no jurisdiction to Mr. Henesy, intra limites abbatiæ, unless subject to the authority and approbation of the Abbot. The letter ran thus:
It had been a scandal to Sir David Henesy to be removed from his station, especially at this time when these false speeches are going forth. You will do verie well not to remove him till you know further. And trulie, in my opinion, none can stand in better steede than himself for your purpose in that place, as yet in the Abbey of Holiecrosse, and I know he will be directed by yourself, if Dr. Kearney or yourself may agree. I take leave with the heartiest commendations this 10th day of April, 1816.
"Your Worship's moste assured friend, "JOHN HAARIES D. CASSELIEN." Mr. Henesy at length submitted, and from the instrument subjoined, it will be seen that he fully recognised the sole authority and pre-eminence of the Abbot within the Abbey and its dependencies, and disclaimed all pretension to spiritual jurisdiction derived from any other source:
"I, Sir David Henesy, of the diocese of Cassel, prieste, do by these presents acknowledge and make known that I am
heartilie grieved and repentant for all and singular speeches I have committed, either in word or deede against or to the prejudice of the honor, credit, and authoritie of the Right Rev. Dr. Luke Archer, right and lawfull Lord Abbot of the Hollycrosse in the diocese of Cassel, or any other depending of him; especially Sir Matthew Roche, prieste, for which I have deserved to be censured by the said Dr. Luke, and do therefore moste humblie crave to be absolved of the excommunication; and all other censures denounced against me for my disobedience and misbehaviour to the Lord Abbot, and his authoritie, promisinge, by God's grace, to make sufficient amends, both by recallinge what opprobrious speeches my choller onlie suggested me against the aforenamed Lord Abbot and his adherents in such other places as they might have wrought anny sinister impression in the hearers, and especially in the verie Abbey of the Holliecrosse the next St. Bernard's day, and also by foregoing hereafter, as I do by these presents forego, desist and resign any title, claime, or chardge I did or could claime in or belonginge to the lands or territories or jurisdiction of the said Abbey of Holliecrosse, meaninge and faithfullie promisinge not to intermeddle or undergoe hereafter any cure, chardge, or any other exercise or function within precinct or territories of the said monastery, or without the said Lo. Abbot's allowance, warrant, and direction. witness whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name the first of June, 1621.
"SIR DAVID HENESIE.
"Mortough O'Dowling, Sacerdos and Doctor Theologiæ, "Thomas Roth, sacerd. vic. Gerlis dias. offer and pronot apostol.
"Fr. Nicholas Shee, Postea Provin, Ord. Minorum.
"Fr. Thomas, alias John Madan, Electus Abbas de Mothalibus. "Fr. Stephen Shortall, Electus Abb. de Beatitudine. "Fr. Thomas Bernard O'Leamy, Electur Abb. de Kilcooly."
Having thus made his submission, Mr. Henesy humbly petitioned the Abbot to be restored to the cure of souls within the Abbey, parish, and annexes of the Monastery. The Abbot restored him provisionally; but before so doing, he exacted from him subscription to the subjoined instrument, in which a full recognition of the Abbot's exclusive jurisdiction is formally asserted:
"Ego, David Henesy, Presbyter, &c." Thus in English— "I, David Henesy, Priest, admit before all present that I
have received, had, and held the cure of souls in the Monastery of the Holy Cross, in the parishes and terrorities belonging to the same, of the Rev. Lord Richard Fulow, deceased Abbot of said Monastery. I admit also that on his death I have received, had, and held the same cure for some years, of his successor, the Rev. Lord Luke Archer, present Abbot of said Monastery. I furthermore admit that I have received the same cure anew by the authority and free gift of the said Luke Archer; and I promise to give him submission and obedience to all and singular pertaining to that charge, so that I may be removed. from said charge by him or his successors, or by any other deputed by him or them, at their mere pleasure, any appeal or resistance to the contrary notwithstanding, and that the said Abbot Luke, his successors, or any other deputed by him or them may substitute any other, at their pleasure, in my place. I promise, moreover, that I shall not minister or exhibit any relic or cross within or without the said Abbey without the special mandate or license of the said Lord Abbot Luke, his successor, or assign. In faith and testimony of all and singular I have put my hand and seal. Given the 12th day of February, 1621 (O.S.)
"SIR DAVID HENESIE."
Mr. Henesy was restored to the cure of souls; but with this document on record, no future resistance was apprehended from him. He was deprived of his charge the year after (1623), and John O'Dea, a friar of the Abbey was appointed in his place.
John O'Dea studied at the Irish College of Salamanca, where he took orders, and on returning to Ireland was engaged in the sacred ministry for several years. In the year 1619, and 40th of his age, he took the habit of the Cistercian Order in the Abbey of Holycross from the hands of Abbot Archer, and, on the deprivation of David Henesy, was appointed to the pastoral care of the monastery and parishes appertaining to it. He retained this charge to 1628, when he was promoted by Apostolic brief to the Abbey of Curcumroe in Clare. He was distinguished for his learning and virtues. During his incumbency in 1626, the abbot, who was then temporarily residing in the monastery, had the bells of the Abbey pealed in thanksgiving for a miraculous cure effected by the application of the Holy Rood to a paralytic in the presence of a large assemblage of people.
Gerald (in religion Malachy) Forstall was a native of Kilkenny, where he received his education. He was the first priest ordained by the great Dr. Rothe, Bishop of Ossory. After ministering in that diocese for some years, he embraced