Saint of the Day – 3 June – Saint Kevin of Glendalough (c 498-618) Priest, Founder and first Abbot of the Glendalough Monastery in County Wicklow, Ireland, Hermit, Ascetic and Mystic, scholar, Spiritual Adviser, miracle-worker., he possessed a miraculous affinity with animals and nature. Born in c 498 as Coemgen which means “fair-begotten”, or “of noble birth” at the Fort of the White Fountain, Leinster, Ireland and died on 3 June 618 of natural causes. Patronages – blackbirds, Archdiocese of Dublin, Glendalough. Also known as – Kevin of Glen da locha, Caoimhghin, Coemgen, Coemgenus, Comegen, Keivin. Glendalough, or the Glen of two Lakes, is one of the most important sites of monastic ruins in Ireland. Before the arrival of St Kevin this glen would have been desolate and remote, ideal for a secluded retreat.
Kevin (like St Columba) was of noble birth, the son of Coemlog and Coemell of Leinster. He was born in c 498 at the Fort of the White Fountain and Baptised by Saint Cronan of Roscrea. He became a pupil of Saint Petroc of Cornwall, who had come to Leinster about 492. He was Ordained by Bishop Lugidus and, following his Ordination, he moved to Glendalough in order to live a life of contemplation and prayer. He lived as a Hermit in a partially man made cave, now known as St Kevin’s Bed, to which he was led, in the account of his Vita, by an angel.
St Kevin’s Bed can best be described as a man-made cave cut in the rock face very close to the edge of the mountain. It overlooks the upper lake from a height of about 0 metres. The approach to the cave is very difficult, with access to it through a rectangular space and a short passageway 1 metre high and les than that in width. The inner or main part of the cave is just 1.5 metres wide and less than 31 metre high. It is reasonable to assume that the cave could only have been used as a sleeping place and would have been impossible for an adult to stand upright in, so it is quite likely that St Kevin only used it as his bed, or a place for pious prayer or meditation.
There is a legend which claims that St Laurence O’Toole used the “bed” as he frequently made penitential visits to Glendalough, especially during the season of Lent.
Kevin lived the life of a hermit there with an extraordinary closeness to nature. His companions were the animals and birds all around him. He lived as a Hermit for seven years wearing only animal skins, sleeping on stones and eating very sparingly.
He went barefoot and spent his time in prayer. Disciples were soon attracted to Kevin and a further settlement enclosed by a wall, called Kevin’s Cell, was established nearer the lakeshore. By 540 Saint Kevin’s fame as a teacher and holy man had spread far and wide. Many people came to seek his help and guidance. In time, Glendalough grew into a renowned seminary of saints and scholars and the parent of several other Monasteries.
In 544, Kevin went to the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath to visit the holy Abbots, Sts Columba, Comgall and Cannich and to establish a brotherly league of communication with them. He then proceeded to Clonmacnoise, where St Cieran had died three days before. Having firmly established his community, he retired into solitude for four years and only returned to Glendalough at the earnest entreaty of his Monks. Until his death in 618, Kevin presided over his Monastery in Glendalough, living his life by fasting, praying and teaching. St Kevin is one of the Patron Saints of the diocese of Dublin.
He belonged to the second order of Irish saints. Eventually, Glendalough, with its seven Churches, became one of the chief pilgrimage destinations in Ireland.
Kevin of Glendalough was Canonised by St Pope Pius X on 9 December 1903 (cultus confirmation).
You were privileged to live
in the Age of Saints, O Father Kevin
being Baptised by one Saint,
taught by another
and buried by a third.
Pray to God that He will raise up saints in our day
to help, support and guide us
into the Way of salvation.
(A troparion to St Kevin)