Friday, June 3, 2016

St. Caoimhin (Kevin) Abbot of Glendalough, Ireland

Saint Kevin of Glendalough, Wonder-worker of Ireland (also Coemgen, Caoimhghin, Coemgenus, and Kavin) was the abbot of Glendalough Monastery. He was born in 498 AD, and fell asleep in the Lord in 618 at the age of 120 years. His feast day is celebrated on June 3.
St. Kevin was born in the year 498 in the Irish province of Leinster to noble parents, perhaps even descendant of the Kings of Leinster. Tradition holds that when he was born, his mother felt no labour pains, and the snow that fell on the day of his birth melted as it fell around the house. An angel is said to have appeared during the child's baptism, telling his parents that the child should be named "Kevin." St. Cronan, the officiating priest, said, "This was surely an angel of the Lord, and as he named the child so shall he be called." So the baby was baptised Kevin, Coemgen in the Irish tongue, which means "He of Blessed Birth." He is the first person in history to be called Kevin. His childhood was marked by a horrible temper and dislike of other people, although he loved animals.


At the age of seven, his parents sent him to the monastery run by St. Petroc in Cornwall. While there, Kevin was kneeling, his arms outstretched in prayer, on the first day of Lent in a small hut in the wilderness when a blackbird landed in his palm and proceeded to construct a nest. Kevin remained perfectly still, so as not to disturb the bird, for the whole of Lent. Kevin was fed by the blackbird with berries and nuts. By the end of Lent, the last blackbird hatchlings had flown from the nest, which now lay empty in his hand, and Kevin returned to the monastery for the Paschal celebration.
After being ordained to the priesthood, Kevin spent seven years as a hermit in the mountains surrounding Glendalough, which comes from the Gaelic words glen (meaning "valley") and lough (meaning "lake"), meaning "Valley of the Two Lakes." He lived in a small, five by seven by three foot cave, now known as St. Kevin's Bed, which was, legend holds, shown to him by an angel. His life was spent in prayer and self-denial. During one of these sessions of prayer in the Upper Lake of Glendalough (which he preferred to the Lower Lake, because it was much more remote and colder), he dropped his breviary into the lake. An otter appeared from the bottom of the lake with the prayer book, unstained or damaged in any way, in its mouth. Henceforth, the otter would bring fish to Kevin for food.
Kevin returned to society when a farmer, named Dima, followed a cow of his who would continually wander off. The cow would come every day, when the herd was sent out to pasture, to St. Kevin's cave and lick his clothes and feet while he was in prayer. When the cow returned at evening, she would produce unbelievable amounts of milk. Dima, wondering greatly about this, one day resolved to follow the cow. When Dima stumbled upon Kevin's cave, and saw where the cow went, he fell to his knees in penitence. Kevin raised him up, and, as Dima was a pagan, taught the farmer about Christ and the Gospel. Dima eventually begged Kevin to come out of his isolation and teach his family about Christ. After a day of prayer, Kevin saw that it was God's will that he return to society to spread the Gospel. He began by teaching Dima's family, but his tutelage soon grew to dozens of families and he began to attract followers. And so, seeing the need of a central place from which to teach, Kevin decided to establish a monastery.
However, Kevin could not establish a monastery, since King O'Tool of Glendalough, a pagan, would not allow it. It happened that the king had a much beloved pet goose, which was now old and grey. As time passed, the goose also became so aged and weak that it was soon unable to fly. As a result, the king was very upset, for he loved the goose very much. Hearing of Kevin's sanctity and power, the pagan king sent for him, and asked that he make the beloved goose young. Kevin asked for a payment of whatever land the goose would fly over. As the goose could no longer take flight, O'Toole agreed. When Kevin touched the bird, it grew young, and flew over the entire valley of Glendalough, and on that site the monastery was established.
Soon, other monks came to help teach all who would come to learn, old and young, rich and poor alike. More buildings were added to the little settlement. Among them was the famous tower, which still stands today, along with the large hut used by St. Kevin. Many people from far afield came to Kevin for advice, which he gave freely, and the monastery grew to such fame and renown that it was considered equal to a pilgrimage to Rome for a penitent to travel seven times to Glendalough monastery. It is said of Kevin that he was the fulfilment of the prophecy of St. Patrick—that he was the one to come who would evangelize the region of Ireland just south of Dublin.
Kevin went once, upon the founding of his monastery, to Rome, where he received relics for the monastery. Many years later, when his hair and beard were white but his eyes sparkling and his step quick and firm, he felt the desire to go once again to Rome. However, he also knew he was bound to the duties of the monastery. He went for advice to his old friend, Bishop Kiernan of Clonmacnoise. Kiernan understood Kevin's longing but he knew that it is better for one missionary to train many others than to leave the others half-trained in order to go to the missions himself. "Birds do not hatch their eggs while they are flying," Kiernan said.
Kevin saw that not to go was a sacrifice, and he knew now where God's will lay. So Kevin continued to teach and advise everyone who came to him until the peaceful June night in 618 when his soul sped heavenward to join the angels and saints around God's throne.
The precise location of Kevin's grave is lost, although it is said that at dusk, when no-one is about, blackbirds will flock to an unmarked cross above a forgotten grave, the grave of a wild boy who held a blackbird's nest in his unwavering, outstretched hand for forty days.
Saint Kevin loved animals and nature, and many of the miracles attributed to him involve them.
The Boar and the hounds
It is said that a hunting party was chasing a boar with their hounds. The boar came upon Saint Kevin in prayer beneath a tree and laid down at his feet. The hounds, when they saw the boar at Kevin's feet, also lay down near the saint, not daring to approach the boar while it was under Kevin's protection. The men decided to ignore these signs and to go ahead and slay the boar. However, a flock of birds landed in the tree, and the hunters took this as a sign and left the boar with Kevin.
Sheep
One day in his youth, Kevin was tending sheep for his parents, when along came a small group of beggars seeking food. Touched by their poverty, Kevin gave them four sheep. However, when the sheep were counted at the end of the day, not one was found to be missing.
Water to ale
On a day in autumn, Kevin was working in the kitchen at St. Petroc's monastery. He was busy preparing meals for crop gatherers when a number of pilgrims called and asked for food. Kevin, filled with compassion, gave them the harvesters' dinner. He was rebuked by his superiors for his action. He then told the attendants to fill all the ale jars with water and gather together all the bare meat bones. Then he prayed alone and, it is said, the water turned to ale and the bones were covered with meat again.
St. Kevin's apples
A young man living near the monastery was struck with epilepsy. One day, it was revealed that he would be cured of his malady by eating an apple from the monastery. Unfortunately, the monastery had no apple trees. When Kevin learned of this, he commanded a grove of willows to produce apples, which they did. The young man was cured, and the willows produced apples for over four centuries.
St. Ciaran's bell
St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise was St. Kevin's soul-friend, and they were very close. When Ciaran approached death, he said: "Let me be carried to a small height." When he looked up at the sky and the vast open air above his head, he said, "Terrible is the way of dying." Then angels went to meet his soul, filling as they did all the space between heaven and earth. He was carried back into the little church, and raising his hands, he blessed his people. Then he told the brethren to shut him up in the church until Kevin should come from Glendalough. Kevin arrived three days after Ciaran's death, having left his monastery as soon as he heard that his closest friend was dying, but he had been delayed. At once Ciaran's spirit returned from heaven and re-entered his body so that he could commune with Kevin and welcome him. The two friends stayed together for a long time, engaged in mutual conversation, and strengthening their friendship. Then Ciaran blessed Kevin, and Kevin blessed water and administered the Eucharist to Ciaran. Ciaran gave his silver bell to Kevin as a sign of their lasting unity.[1]


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