Ita, born around 480 in Ireland, was baptised Deirdre. She sought a life under Holy Orders gaining the name Ita which indicated the thirst she displayed throughout her life. This was her thirst for the Lord’s love, not a general thirst – although Brigid, whom we met earlier, was a noted brewer!
Ita moved to Cluain Credhail (some anecdotes tell of her being guided by lights in the hills), establishing a monastic site there. The site became known as Cill Ide (Cell or Church of Ita), eventually becoming Killeedy. Her thirst for the Lord was a simple trust – she recognised that the love of Jesus is not a ‘reward’ paid out at the end of life according to how much we love Him, but that He is alive and with us throughout. She saw that she needed Him walking alongside her and that this was as much about her awareness of Him in her life and her lifestyle.
She attracted many to her monastic life and her simple thirst, including her younger sister. She set up a school as well as the convent and monastery, and Killeedy prospered – highly regarded for learning and spiritual development. A Celtic Christian known as Brendan the Navigator (it seems he already has his ‘one word’ characteristic!) was one of many pupils under her care and once asked what she thought God most loved. She replied, “To seek faith with a pure heart, simplicity in spiritual life and to be charitable out of love.” She added that the opposite applied as well, namely not to have a hatred of others, a resentful heart or an excessive love of things.
The more she thirsted for God’s love, the more that other people were drawn to her. She became Anam Cara (soul friend) to more than one. She formed a close bond with Brendan the Navigator and throughout his adult life, and amidst his extensive wanderings, he would return to Killeedy to speak with her and pray with her. Despite her own lack of travelling, she did not just withdraw into seclusion, but was an effective manager, much involved with the people and issues of her local area.
As with all Celtic Christians, Ita appears to have had a strong, reverent and yet familiar knowledge of the Holy Trinity, loving and worshiping God the Father, Jesus the Son and also the Holy Spirit. However, her chasing of the Wild Goose does not seem to have caused the Spirit to take to the wing, for when she died in her 90s in about 570, she was still there at Killeedy. People still came just to see her, to see what was it about her, that elusive, attractive quality; that was the Holy Spirit in her.
Of course, you have to be very careful about just picking and splicing bits from Scripture to suit your narrative, but Psalm 107 is somewhat appropriate for a lady who was led to a place where she built up an establishment, attracting others through her own qualities of thirsting after the Lord:
He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107: 7–9)
[from Timothy Pitt]