The New Reform

A new element entered the religious life of the people with the introduction of the Friars Minor. MacMahon had founded a house for them in Monaghan in 1462; but it was more than a century later that Maguire established them in Lisgoole in Fermanagh. The influence of the Donegal convent (1474) was powerful, not only in Raphoe diocese but also in the adjoining parts of Clogher, particularly Templecarn?Lough Derg. The friars attached great importance to preaching. Knowing that much, helps one to understand the significance of an entry in the Annals of Ulster for 1454:
A sermon was preached this year on the Clochcorr in Fermanagh by Tadhg Ó Donnchadha … I wrote that because it is known to me that that sermon . . . is talked about by a multitude of persons.
This was clearly a sensation – possibly because he preached so well, but more likely because the people, the ‘hungry sheep’, so rarely heard a sermon. One of the Donegal friars, Brian bocht MacCraith, who died in 1549, deserves to be remembered for his sanctity, which was recognised by everybody who knew him. (The faithful kept him busy working miracles for them.) It is ironic that he quite lately knew the notorious Miler Magrath who was also a Franciscan friar and from Termonmagrath, who died (at a great age) Protestant archbishop of Cashel (1622).

Many members of the old literary families – Ó Cléirigh, Mac an Bhaird, Ó hUiginn – entered the Franciscans and put their literary talents to the service of the Church. The religious poetry of Giolla Bhríde Ó hEodhusa, one of our own, passed into folklore and had wide influence for centuries in strengthening the Faith in Gaelic?speaking Ireland.

The agreement setting up the Franciscans in Lisgoole in 1580 shows, on the one hand, the move to reform and, on the other hand, how a religious house – the Augustinian canons – became completely secularised through falling into the hands of a branch of the Maguire’s. The settlement, which was made and signed by Cúchonnacht Maguire (chief of his name), Bishop Cornelius MacArdle and other notables of the diocese, guaranteed the family which had usurped the twenty odd townlands belonging to Lisgoole, full and peaceful possession of them. Out of it all the Franciscans got just a house and some gardens.
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