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Canaire (?-530) January 28th

ScatteryCanaire was a woman who lived as a hermit in a cell she had built near Bantry Bay in the south of Ireland. One night, while she was praying, all the churches of Ireland appeared to her in a vision. It seemed as if a tower of fire rose up from each side of the churches. The highest of the towers, and the straightest toward heaven, rose from Inis Cathaig, the island we now call Scattery Island, where Senan (see March 8th) lived and prayed. Canaire became convinced that this was to be her place of resurrection, and so began the journey at once. She had no guidance except for the tower of fire, which continued to blaze both night and day until she arrived. When she reached the shore, she completed the last stretch by walking across the waters as if she were on smooth land.

Senan met her, but told her, ‘Go to your sister who lives on the island east of this one, so that you may be her guest.’ ‘That is not why I have come,’ said Canaire, ‘but to find hospitality with you on this island.’ Senan insisted that only men were allowed on the island, even as visitors. Considering her reply, she may well have been the first Irish feminist! She said, ‘Christ came to redeem women no less than to redeem men. No less did he suffer for the sake of women than for the sake of men. No less than men, women enter into the heavenly kingdom. Why, then, should you not allow women to live on this place?’’

In honour of her stubbornness Senan gave her what she asked for: communion from his hand, and a place for her to lie. The moment she gladly received the sacrament she was taken to heaven. She probably had a positive effect on Senan, for early legends say that Aidan of Lindisfarne (see August 31st) was his disciple, and Aidan certainly was a significant mentor for both men and women. The site of Canaire’s grave is now partially submerged but can still be seen in the waters off Scattery Island, marked with a simple flag.

Our prayer today is by Mary Low: Teach us to follow in Your steps across the icy waters of prejudice and fear to the perfect communion of God’s Kingdom. Amen.