Priestly Powers

and within living memory there is the case of Fr Frawley, still spoken of with reverence in the Sixmilebridge area, who when he first came to the parish challenged the old parish altar candlespriest to a trial of their respective powers. He, by his prayers, was able to light the altar-candles from a distance of thirty feet, while the older man could only make them smoulder.

When the first monks wandered over to Ireland they found easy resonance with the Irish people for demonstrations such as Fr Frawley’s. History holds many accounts of their mystical abilities. Belief in such priestly power was still present in the nineteenth century according to the above excerpt from Eddie Lenihan’s book In Search Of Biddy Early. In fact among the hundreds of stories collected about Biddy this is a common theme. Because the Church was adamant that parishioners stay away from Biddy, threatening to condemn them from the pulpit for visiting her, people seeking healing would often first approach the local parish priest and if he did not help them the popular conclusion was that he would not, rather than could not. Then they would go to Biddy. If prayer invokes an alliance with an unseen and other world power, how is that so very different from Biddy’s other realm relationships? For many Irish people it wasn’t so different at all.