June Saint of the Month Saint Kevin of Glendalough

Saint Kevin

Or Saint Kevin of Glendalough

Canonized by Pope Pius X, on the 9th of December, 1903.

Feast day: June 3

Patron saint of: blackbirds, Glendalough, the Archdiocese of Dublin, and he is one of the patron saints of Ireland.

There is not a lot known about Saint Kevin, but it is estimated he lived between 498 to 618, making him 120 at his death. He was born in Ireland, given the Irish name of Coemgen, which means “attractive” or “beautiful shining birth”. However, after his baptism he was given the name Kevin and today is more widely known as Saint Kevin.

Saint Kevin is known to be the first Abbot of Glendalough in Wicklow County, Ireland. He obtained the land from King O’Toole, after Saint Kevin was called to heal the King’s pet Goose. The King thinking the aged pet goose would not get far, told Kevin that he could build his monastery on the land the goose could fly over. As legend has its, Saint Kevin laid his hand on the goose and the goose became young again, before it flew across what is now the Glendalough Valley. Where now sits the remains of the monastery by two lakes. It is believed the relics of Saint Keven rest in a manmade cave by the upper lake.

Even after the dissolution of the monetary in the 1500s Glendalough, has been and remains the location of many pilgrimages. It is said that the holiness of the space is so sacred, that seven visits to Glendalough is equal to one to Rome. I can say that there is a unique stillness and quiet present. As we walked along the grounds, I personally felt a closeness to God, that was presented nature. We were there just after one of the biggest snows the area had seen in thirty or so years. There were springs pouring out of the mountain side, light gliding off the snow shimmering like glitter across both of the lakes.

There are several legends and miracles attributed to Saint Kevin, most of them involving animals. One of the legends Saint Kevin is known for involves blackbirds, who still hold sacred space of the land. Saint Kevin, while in prayer had a black bird build a nest in his hand and laid eggs. To us now, we would recognize prayer as being on our knees, but then prayer was most often said standing with arms outstretched. Saint Kevin was so moved in recognizing the mortality in the circle of life did not disturb the nest or the bird until the eggs hatched. Although he lived before that of Saint Francis of Assisi, his dedication to nature is why he is know as the Saint Francis of Ireland. His stories and his life has been handed down by pilgrims who travel to and from Glendalough, carrying his story with them.

The monastery which was closed in the 1539, as many Roman Catholic communities were, still remains a place for pilgrimage. As I stood there looking across the land white with snow, the black birds flew around moving as though carrying prayers of all who have made a pilgrimage to this site and beyond. I thought watching them flying about, of how these very birds have descended from the very birds that were present with Saint Kevin, of how they hold the story of Saint Kevin within their beings, just as we do as disciples of The Way.

Saint Kevin who spent much of his time as a hermit, was also a pilgrim, sharing the sacredness of prayer and the monastic life. In both cases he was dedicated to the presence of God in prayer, removing himself from the everyday comforts. As it is offered to us in our faith traditions, that we become differently aware of our sacredness during trials or changes in our life. Those are the times, when we fully surrender to God, because it is beyond our human thinking. Through prayers, chants and delving deep inside our subconscious.

It is when we experience events that move us outside of our comfort zone, that can become most aware of the sacredness, it can also be done in prayer and occasional living removed from everyday distractions. The message to practice devoted prayer, enables us to recognize the sacred even in what may seem a common happening or everyday life. As Saint Kevin and many canonized saints remind, that when we slow down long enough to be present with the Holy Spirit, we can as disciples carry the message with our breath to others. Just as I may not make it to sacred places, some may not make it to a Glendalough, but I can share the message given to me while there as I receive messages from others. This is again one of the ways we participate in the Communion of Saints.

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