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Chapter V: St. Mirin and the Patron Saints

Faith is fresh of hue.
        Lyra Innocentium.

WHEN the monks had founded their church at Paisley, they dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, to St. James, St. Milburga, and St. Mirinus. St. James was the patron saint of the Stewarts, and to him the church on the Inch of Renfrew, where the monks first took up their abode, was dedicated. St. Milburga was the patron saint of Wenloc. She was the grand-daughter of King Penda, the Saxon King of Mercia, and had presided over a nunnery at Wenloc, on the ruins of which, after its destruction by the Danes, the priory of that place had been erected. She had died in the odour of sanctity, and her memory was held in much reverence, but, when the church of Wenloc was to be built, the place of her burial had been forgotten [1] or lost sight of, though her remains were supposed to be within the precincts of the ancient building. A boy running over the floor of the proposed church trod upon the very tomb of the saint, and balsamic exhalations perfuming the sanctuary, at once revealed her resting-place. The discovery was hailed with enthusiasm by the devout, and crowds flocked to Wenloc. Miraculous cures were effected through the merits of the saint, and their fame spread everywhere. The chief cures were in cases of scrofulous diseases which had resisted all medical treatment.[2] People afflicted with these made pilgrimages to Wenloc in great numbers, and were said to obtain relief at the shrine of the Saxon Princess. It was natural that the Shropshire monks should place their new home at Paisley under the patronage of a saint whom they must have held in great reverence. It was a link between them and the scenes of former days, of a strong and yet tender description.

As St. Milburga was the saint of the place whence they had come, St. Mirin or Mirinus was a saint of the country of their adoption. The one the Normans took from the Saxon Church, the other from that of the Celts. At Paisley they found a church with a parochial territory dedicated to his memory.
[3] He was revered by the inhabitants as one of the early apostles of Christianity; and, like all the Celtic saints, his memory was regarded with the deepest affection by the natives. The new com¬ers could not have taken a more judicious way of commending themselves to the people among whom they were to labour than by calling their new monastery after the name of this local and popular saint. They thus united themselves in sentiment with the old historic Church of Scotland. It was both a wise and a right thing for them to do.

As the name of Mirin is associated with the first preaching of Christianity at Paisley and in Strathgrif, it may not be out of place to state here what is now known of his life and labours. The materials for forming an estimate of these are but scanty. His name is found in both Irish and Scotch Kalendars, but there is little more than the mention of it,
[4] and even this is given in so many forms that it is not easy at times to identify it as belonging to the same person. We are indebted for most of our knowledge of Mirin to the only complete and specially Scotch service book that has come down to us from the Roman Church, the Breviary, as it is called, of Aberdeen. This most interesting work was written, by Bishop Elphinstone, and published in 1550. It contains the lives of the Scottish saints, and all the legends commonly received regarding them which floated about among the common people. [5] Neat little epitomes of these are inserted in the Breviary, and were read during service in the church. Among the lives of other saints, that of the patron saint of Paisley appears. We shall add at the end of this chapter the whole service for St. Mirin's day, taken from the book referred to, as it brings before us an office which must have been particularly sacred to the monks of Paisley. Meantime we give in a more direct way, and apart from legend and miracle, what throws light on the history of Mirin.

[1] Eyton's Shropshire, and Introduction to Paisley Register.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Glasgow Register, p. 60.
[4] See Appendix.
[5] “Quae sparsim in incerto antea vagabantur.”—Title Page of Breviary.