Saint Kevin of Glendalough

by | Feb 23, 2017 | Book of Saints Project, Celtic Saints

In Scripture we read how Jesus was driven into the dessert by the Spirit for 40 days. This time of prayer, fasting, and trial was essential to the preparation and strengthening Christ needed as he set out on the path of ministry – a strong and vibrant mission of teaching and healing. Celtic Christians strove to follow suit often enduring the challenges of withdrawing from the familiar comforts of community and home. Kevin of Glendalough, Ireland was one such individual.

Born in the year 498 into a noble family, Kevin’s mother received a message from an angel as to the importance of the child she would give birth to saying he would be “dear to both God and man.” Kevin was a remarkable child who spent much time learning from nearby monks. He enjoyed nature and once wandered far from home where he discovered the valley of lakes that would one day become his retreat.

Entering into his calling to ministry and discipleship, Kevin was quickly drawn into the hermitic life choosing an abandoned tomb that had been carved into the side of a cliff some 30 feet above the waters of the Upper Lake in the Glendalough valley. He spent his days living simply in prayer and study of the Psalms. He made extraordinary friendships with the animals who lived in these surroundings. There was an otter who would catch salmon for him and even rescued his Psalter when it fell into the chilly lake waters.

Kevin was known to submit himself to acts not unlike the prophets of the Old Testament: standing for hours in the chilly lake waters praying with arms outstretched or lying on the rocks on the shore for weeks at a time. A well-known story is that of a blackbird making a nest and laying eggs in Kevin’s hand as he lay there, his needs perhaps being tended to by his otter friend.

All this extreme discipleship did bear fruit in Kevin’s life. He soon found a small community of monks settling down close to him there along the Upper Lake. These individuals sought to know what Kevin was learning in his ever deepening relationship to God. Kevin grew so well respected for his wisdom, insights and healing abilities his location in that isolated valley soon became a destination for simple folk and nobility alike. Glendalough became a thriving center of Christian culture and learning with Kevin living to the age of 120. Kevin’s story is often referred to as a journey from solitude to community, for in withdrawing for a time we are better able and equipped to engage with others.

Michelle L Hofer

Hi, I'm Michelle…

A visual artist searching for stories and images of faith, hope and encouragement throughout the history of the Christian faith tradition. This Book of Saints Project is my ongoing work of sharing what I find through art and word.

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