Today, September 25 is the Feast of St. Finbarr or Fionnbharra in Irish, very often abbreviated to Barra is patron Saint of the city and the Diocese of Cork. It is thought he lived in the seventh century; he was Bishop of Cork and Abbot of a monastery he built in the picturesque and beautiful setting of Gougane Barra in West Cork.
Tradition holds that Finbarr was one of a community of monks who had a monastic settlement near the place where the river Lee rises in Gougane Barra. St. Finbarr’s oratory was built in the early 1900s on a small island on a lake at Gougane on what has long been a place of pilgrimage.
Clearly Finbarr knew that God was very much present in this sacred place, particularly in the beauty of nature that is evident here all year around. Against a backdrop of rugged hills, lakes, rivers and streams, Finbarr found great peace. The Feast of St. Finbarr today reminds us how important it is to appreciate nature and the beauty of creation.
Whenever I visit this holy place, the lines from psalm 19 comes to mind. “The heavens tell of your glory, O God, and the firmament proclaims your handiwork. Day unto day pours forth the story and night unto night reveals its knowledge”.
St. Finbarr is said to have made the journey to the mouth of the Lee where it meets the sea and established a monastic school around which grew what developed into the city of Cork. An annual pilgrimage day at Gougane is held on the last Sunday of September.
Many people have taken the name Finbarr and there are many name places especially in Cork associated with the Saint’s name. The Church of Ireland Cathedral takes its name from Finbarr and the motto of University College, Cork is, “Where Finbarr Taught, Let Munster Learn” are just but a few.
Today is a day of pilgrimage and prayer in Gougane. We ask the blessings of St. Finbarr on ourselves, our city, our families, our schools, our communities, and those who need a special prayer today. May St. Finbarr continue to guide and direct us each day!