Francis Kirwan

Life
1589-1661; bishop of Killala; took part in Irish struggles in Connaught, fled, 1652, surrendered, 1654; allowed to retire to France in 1655; d. Rennes. ODNB

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Criticism
John Lynch, Pii Antistitis Icon; sive, de vita et morte ... Francisci Kirovani (St Malo 1669; Dublin 1848; Dublin: Stat. Off. 1951).

Commentary
Patrick Sweezey, contrib. in Genealogy.com: ‘Francis Kirwan, who was born in 1589, went on to study at Lisbon, Portugal, after graduating from his uncle Lynch's renowned classical school at Galway. Following his Irish ordination he taught for a number of years in the Irish colleges in France. He appears to have a radiant personality and his effectiveness was only temporarily extinguished by some Irish students in Paris whom he tried to persuade to return home on missionary work. / St. Vincent de Paul was a good friend of his and the 13 bishops, 15 abbots and 30 doctors of the Sorbonne who were present at Francis Kirwan's consecration as Bishop of Killala in St. Lazaire, Paris, must have relaxed their prayerfulness after he had sailed for Ireland. On the high seas, pirates relieved him of all his books and personal goods. / At home, Ireland was in the last throes of the struggle between Gael and invader. Kirwan differed with the papal diplomat, Rinnacici [sic for Rinuccini], and sided with the old order so that, for years, he became a fugitive who ‘laboured in wild Connacht mountains and in the oceanic islands.' Eventually he was forced to flee to Brittany where there was a most charitable welcome for Irish exiles. / Francis Kirwan has been described as an ascetic who, although he was given to the wearing of hairshirts, was always very cheerful and greatly loved. There is no mention of imminent canonization, though miracles have been attributed to him. When he counselled a man who had left his wife to take her back on pain of eternal damnation, the man replied, “I could bear the flames of hell better than my wife's company.” Bishop Kirwan suggested he try it by putting his hand into the candle. A few seconds of suffering were enough. The cauterization duly healed the marriage. / Bishop Kirwan could not abide gambling. Discovering it among his clerics, he ordered them to return all they had won, forbidding other gamblers to repay them with their winnings. When he died at 72 he was buried with almost as much ceremony at Rennes as he had been accorded on his ordination in Paris. [...] [See also remarks on Rev. Stephen Kirwan (b.c.1530), first Protestant bishop of Kilmacduagh, and Walter Blake Kirwan (1754-1805) [as infra].

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