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September 12

St Ailbe of Emly - September 12

Saint Ailbe of Emly  

“The Patrick of Munster”

(5th Century – 528 or 541)

 “Let him satisfy the need of each infirm person, and let him assist everyone who is ill…Let him be the servant of everyone…Let him be the servant of all, humble and kind.”

Saint Albie of Emly from The Rule of Albie

Saint’s Life Story

His Life  

Little that can be regarded as reliable is known about Ailbe. The name Ailbe is derived from the Irish words Ail (rock) and beo (alive).  Ailbe was born in the 5th century to a maidservant in the house of Cronan, Lord of Eliach in County Tipperary. Since Ailbe was the child of a slave girl of one of the petty Irish princes, by a man named Olenais, Cronan disapproved of his birth and ordered the baby exposed to “dogs and wild beasts, that he might be devoured.”  So, Ailbe was left in the forest to be devoured by the wolves.

First Legend 

 However, Ailbe was hidden under a rock where he was found and nursed by a she-wolf. The she-wolf took compassion upon him, suckled him and raised him with her own cubs. Long afterwards, when Ailbe was bishop, an old she-wolf, pursued by a hunting party, fled to the Bishop and laid her head upon his breast. Ailbe protected his old foster-mother.

“I will protect thee, old mother !” said Ailbe, drawing his mantle round the aged beast. ” When I was little and young and feeble thou didst nourish and cherish and protect me, and now that thou art old and grey and weak, shall I not render the same love and care to thee ? None shall injure thee. Come every day with thy little ones to my table, and thou and thine shall share my crusts.”

So, every day thereafter, the she-wolf and her little ones came to take their food in Ailbe’s hall. 

Second Legend

Ailbe wished once to give to King Aengus of Munster a hundred horses. So, he went to the top of a mountain, and prayed. Then, a cloud arose out of the sea. It came to the mountain top and then burst.  From its womb, the burst cloud issued a hundred noble steeds.

Ailbe – A Disciple of St. Patrick

Although many are under the mistaken belief that Saint Patrick was the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, Saint Ailbe was converted by British missionaries. Some legends say that he was baptized by a priest while a boy in northern Ireland; another that he was baptized and raised in a British settlement in Ireland.

When yet a heathen, Ailbe’s soul yearned for better things.  As Ailbe was keeping sheep, a Christian priest heard him praying with eyes uplifted to heaven for light and grace. Saint Patrick took Ailbe and taught and baptized him. So, Ailbe was a disciple of Saint Patrick and was probably ordained priest by him.

Since Ailbe was also known in South Wales, it seems certain that before Saint Patrick there was a movement of Christians between the south of Wales and the south of Ireland. And it may be from this movement that Ailbe received his Christian faith. Another source says Ailbe baptized Saint David of Wales.

Ailbe Preached By Words and Example

Ailbe was known as a powerful preacher and a model of sanctity, who won many souls to the faith. Although he lived in the world in order to care for the souls of his flock, he was careful for his own soul, too. He made frequent retreats and engaged in habitual recollection. Saint Ailbhe especially loved to pray in front of the sea. King Aengus of Munster gave him Aran Island (Co. Galway) on which he founded a great monastery and established Saint Enda as abbot.  Ailbe not only brought over an incredible multitude to the faith of Christ, but infused into many the perfect spirit of the gospel, possessing a wonderful art of making men not only Christians but saints.

Though zeal for the divine honor and charity for the souls of others fixed Ailbe in the world, he was always careful, by habitual recollection and frequent retreats, to nourish in his own soul the pure love of heavenly things, and to live always in a very familiar and intimate acquaintance with himself, and in the daily habitual practice of the most interior perfect virtues.

His Death

In Ailbe’s old age, it was his earnest desire to commit to others the care of his dear flock so that he might be allowed to prepare himself in the exercises of holy solitude for his great change. For this purpose, Ailbe begged that he might be allowed to retire to Thule, the remotest country towards the northern pole that was known to the ancients, which seems to have been Shetland, or, according to some, Iceland, or some part of Greenland. However, the king guarded the ports to prevent his flight.

According to the Annals of Innisfallen, which draws on records originally compiled at Emly, Ailbe died around 528.

Another interesting story is that Ailbe’s tomb, long forgotten, was discovered in Cashel in 580 when St Brendan of Birr came on a visit to inaugurate the new king.

Emly, Ireland later became an important ecclesiastical center and diocese. In 1718, Emly was united with Cashel and Saint Ailbe is the patron of the joint archdiocese.

In Emly, there is a Catholic church dedicated to St Ailbe which dates to the late nineteenth century. An ancient and weathered Celtic cross in its churchyard is known as “St Ailbe’s Cross”.

St Ailbe of Emly's Cross in Emly - September 12
St. Ailbe’s Cross in Emly, Ireland

Ailbe’s Rule

A ninth century monastic rule bears Ailbe’s name. It consists of 56 verses in Irish, including these instructions to a monk:

Let him be steady,
let him not be restless,
let him be wise, learned, pious;
let him be vigilant; let him be a slave; let him be humble kindly.

Let him be gentle, close and zealous,
let him be modest, generous and gracious;  against the torrent of the world, let him be watchful,
let him not be reproachful; against the brood of the world, let him be warlike.

The jewel of baptism and communion, let him receive it.
Let him be constant at prayer, his canonical hours let him not forget;
let him bow it down without insolence or contention.
A hundred genuflections for him at the Beata at the beginning of the day… thrice fifty psalms with a hundred genuflections every hour of vespers.
A genuflection thrice, earnestly, after going in past the altar rail, without frivolity and without excitement, going into the presence of the king of the angels.
A clean house for the guests and a big fire, washing and bathing for them, and a couch without sorrow.

Born :                  5th Century in Ireland

Died:                   Around 527 (Feast Day – Sep 12) in most likely Emly, Ireland

Beatified:            Pre-Congregation

Canonized:         Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          September 12

Patron Saint:     Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, Ireland; Diocese of Cashel, Ireland; Diocese of Emly, Ireland; Munster, Ireland; Wolves



Most of us have not been been suckled, nursed, and raised up by a wolf like Saint Ailbe. He would later go on to save this same wolf’s life from a hunting party. We all have someone who raised up each of us from earliest days as a toddler whether it is a your mother and father, grandparents, and/or foster parents or friends.

Who raised you as a child growing up? Just like Saint Ailbe saving the wolf that raised him, we should offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and remember to do acts of kindness to those who sacrificed to take the time to raise us to be the person we are today. 


Dear Saint Ailbe of Emly, Bishop and Patron of Emly, 

You faithfully served God’s people during your life on Earth, dedicating yourself to spreading the Good News of Christ.

You displayed a deep love for all living creatures, showing kindness and compassion to every being, mirroring the love of our Creator for His creation.

As you tend to the needs of your flock in heaven, I humbly ask for your intercession and prayers.

Please pray for me, and for all those in need, for the sick and suffering, the lonely and despairing, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the strength to follow God’s will.

Guide us in faith, hope, and love, and help us to grow closer to God, as you did throughout your holy life on Earth.

Saint Ailbe, we honor your memory and ask for your intercession, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Saint Ailbe of Emly, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 12 September – Saint Ailbe (Died 528) “The Patrick of Munster”

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. September 12 St. Albeus, Bishop and Confessor in Ireland

Catholic Online – St. Ailbhe

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Ailbhe (Albeus, Ailbe) of Emly by Katherine I Rabenstein

Green Canticle – St. Ailbe of Emly

New Advent – Thurston, H. (1907). St. Ailbe. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saints, Feast, Family – St. Ailbe of Emly’s Story

WikiSource – A Compendium of Irish Biography – Saint Ailbe 

Video Link

Know a Saint. St. Ailbe of Emly. – YouTube (Ezer)