Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hail St. Kevin, founder of Glendalough monastery

St. Kevin and his blackbird
St. Kevin and his blackbird on a Poitin label

Today is the feast of St. Kevin, Abbot of Glendalough, Ireland, (ca. 498 - 618 AD).  From his youth St. Kevin was educated by monks, and eventually embraced the monastic state himself.   St. Kevin founded the famous monastery of Glendalough (the Valley of the Two Lakes), the parent of several other monastic foundations.  Once Glendalough was firmly established, St. Kevin retired for several years to a life of solitude and severe asceticism, until entreated by his Glendalough monks to return to the monastery.    A few small buildings of the Glendalough monastery still stand.

St. Kevin is usually depicted with a bird in his palm.  This story explains why:

The holy Kevin, while avoiding the society of his fellow men during the season of Lent, as his custom was, devoted his time to reading and prayers, in the desert, occupying a small hut which did nothing but keep out the sun and rain, giving himself up to contemplation only.

And while he was lifting up his hand to heaven through the window, as he used to do, a blackbird by chance alighted on it, and treating it as a nest, laid an egg there. And the Saint showed such compassion towards it, out of his patient and loving heart, that he neither closed his hand nor withdrew it, but indefatigably held it out and adapted it for the purpose until the young one was fully hatched.

St. Kevin, pray for us.

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