Master Carpenter Seeks Joiners
What wisdom is this that has been given to him? How does he perform miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters living here? Mark 6: 2,3.
Ciaran, unlike most leaders of the early Irish churches, who came from ruling families, was the son of a carpenter. Yet he became such an influential leader that he was known as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
How was this possible? Like David, whom we read about in the Bible, Ciaran was brought up the hard way, looking after the cattle, yet in the fields he had God-guided encounters which built up his character. His tutor would say divine service some distance away; Ciaran always knew when these began, and would join in wherever he was. A fox befriended him and fetched his tutor’s lesson notes to him each day. So he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour of God and beast.
The time came for Ciaran to study under the famous Abbot Finnian at Clonard monastery. Overcoming his mother’s negative attitude, Ciaran took a cow with him which proved so fertile it provided milk for many more students than himself. Ciaran was so attractive, both physically and spiritually, that many people gave him land and treasures which he used for God’s glory. He decided that, having received the best training in scholarship at Clonard, he now needed to receive the best training in prayer, so he decided to go to Aran and be discipled by Enda.
There God gave the two of them a vision of a great and fruitful tree growing beside a stream in the middle of Ireland. This tree protected the entire island, its fruit crossed the sea, and birds of the world came to carry off some of the fruit. Enda told Ciaran that he was the tree, and that God was calling him to establish a church in the centre of Ireland by the banks of a stream. So step by step, Ciaran was led to establish the community at Clonmacnoise. He died of the plague only seven months after arriving there. Yet Clonmacnoise remained a great community for a thousand years, which indicates how significant was the foundation work Ciaran did.
Jesus, Master Carpenter of Nazareth,
wield well your tools in this your workshop
that we who come to you rough hewn
may here by fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand