This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June 3 -- Feast of Saint Kevin of Glendalough

Misanthropy -- hatred, contempt, or intolerance of humanity
          One who is characterized by this is a misanthrope; adjectivally, misanthropic.

Saint Kevin
Misogyny --  hatred, contempt, or intolerance of women
          One who is characterized by this is a misogynist;

These are good words to know when talking about Saint Coemgen, also called Saint Kevin.  He was apparently the first in Ireland to be called Kevin, translated as "he of blessed birth."  The name was suggested by an angel, but confirmed when his mom delivered without any labor pains. 

Kevin grew up to be a misanthropist and a misogynist.  Although he had been ordained as a priest, he moved to the wilderness of Glendalough ("valley between two lakes") to get away from people.  He selected a stone age tomb -- more of a cave, really -- as his abode.  He wore only the skins of animals that died of natural causes and lived on the food he could gather in the area.  A woman named Cathleen wandered up there and took a shine to him.  Love is blind, right?  And probably has a poor sense of smell, too.  Anyway, he didn't want the attention, or worse, the temptation, so he took a bunch of stinging nettles and beat her with them. 

artwork by Catherine Ryan
Lest you think this extreme, you should know that he used to regularly flog himself with stinging nettles as penance for whatever sins he imagined he has committed.  Probably the abuse of poor Cathleen wasn't among the things for which he punished himself, but perhaps her death was.  The poor woman had it bad; even after the stinging nettles, she stuck around professing her love.  One day he flung her from a cliff into the lake, where she drowned.    I suspect the story had an element of humor at one point, but the disposability of love-struck girls isn't a laughing matter anymore. 
 By the way, all the pen-and-ink portraits of Saint Kevin are by an Irish artist named Catherine Ryan.  You can find her work here.  As always, the art is used without permission and would be removed if the artist objected to its use. 

In another classically misogynistic incident, a local king's ex-wife (he divorced her for a younger woman) became a vengeful witch.  She killed the king's first two children by the new wife, so the third was placed in Kevin's care.  He seems like a good surrogate father, right?  Well the witch Dassan tracked the child down and began casting spells their way.  She was on the top of a hill, and we all know the value of the high ground in a duel.  Kevin, however, had powers; he hit her with a bolt of power (Kamehameha Wave?) that sent her corpse flying down into the next valley, thereafter named Glendassan.  

artwork by Catherine Ryan
Although he didn't get along well with people, he was great with animals.  As a novice in the monastery prior to his ordination, he once stuck his hand out the window of his cell.  A blackbird landed there.  Perhaps because it was Ash Wednesday -- or maybe it was because he just liked           animals -- Kevin didn't move.  The blackbird and its mate built a nest in his hand.  Still he didn't move.  The eggs laid in the nest were hatched and still he didn't move.  Occasionally the birds would bring him berries to sustain him through the whole of Lent.  By the Feast of the Resurrection, the last fledgling had flown; he set the nest down and went to the Paschal Mass. 

Later, when he was living in his cave, he took to walking into the lake to pray.  When he first settled in the region, there had been a lake monster that ate people, especially people who came to attach themselves to this holy hermit.  Kevin didn't mind the monster's appetite, but word got around and pretty soon there was a torch-and-hayfork mob coming for the monster's head.  Preferring animals to people, Kevin interceded, suggesting that the monster could have the smaller of the two lakes.  Moreover, it survived by devouring the sickness of the cows that went to the lake to drink; not the sick cows, but somehow it sustained itself by removing their illnesses. 
artwork by Catherine Ryan

But let's return to his habit of praying in the lake.  He would stand with the frigid water up to his chest and read from his breviary for hours.  One day he dropped the breviary, but an otter swam to the bottom and came up with it.  The book was dry and unharmed, and from that point forward, the otter would occasionally catch fish for Kevin to supplement his herbal diet. 

A cow wandered up to him while he was praying on land once and licked his feet.  They were probably like grubby salt licks, except of course they were blessed.  The next day, the cow produced an abundant supply of milk.  The farmer followed it to see what pastured had made it so productive, but of course he discovered the saint instead of exceptional land.  The saint implored him not to betray his presence, fearing an influx of disciples with no monster to which to feed them.  The farmer blabbed, the disciples fluxed in, and Kevin was forced to open a monastery and think about someone's salvation other than his own.

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