A Story of St. Mel

Little is known about Saint Mel (or Melchno). There is no precise information as to where or when he was born other than he was a Briton who lived in the fifth century.

 St. Mel’s father was Conis (or Chonis) and his mother was Darerca, sister of St. Patrick. His mother raised a family of two daughters and seventeen sons including St Mel. She was known as ‘mother of the saints’ because some of her sons became bishops and were later recognized as saints.

St Mel’s connection with Ireland all began with St Patrick. In 431 when Pope Celestine I sent St Patrick back to Ireland as the first bishop there, he took with him his nephews, including Mel and Mel’s brothers Melchu, Munis and Rioch. This entourage was typical of St Patrick’s missionary strategy as he encouraged young persons, especially as monks and nuns, to share in spreading the Gospel. While he worked predominantly in the north where he established his Episcopal See at Armagh, St Patrick sought to organize the Church in Ireland on the basis of territorial sees. Accordingly, he established the church at Ardagh, County Longford. Since he was so impressed with the evangelical zeal and energy of his young nephew who worked tirelessly in this district as a travelling missionary, St Patrick consecrated St Mel as its first Bishop.

Acting upon the apostolic precept, St Mel supported himself by working with his hands, and what he gained beyond bare necessity, he gave to the poor. A person of deep faith, tireless energy and someone very familiar with hard work, Bishop Mel soon attracted other young men as he continued to travel around the district to share his vocation as a monk. This group formed the basis of a religious community at Ardagh, who elected St Mel as their first Abbott. This monastery became a great centre of Christian religious practice and learning, drawing young men from all over the country. After governing his church at Ardagh for nearly forty years, St Mel died in the year 488. His feast is celebrated on the 6th February.

St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, Ireland.