The Story of St. Kevin

On the forefront of the great company of saints who made Ireland glorious in the sixth century, stands Saint Kevin, one of the principal patrons of Dublin. He founded the celebrated Abbey of Glendalough, which became one of the four principal pilgrimage places of Ireland. Seven visits to Glendalough is recognized as equivalent to one pilgrimage to Rome.

A lot of what we know about St. Kevin comes from stories that have been told and handed down. According to tradition, Saint Kevin was born of royal descent in Leinster, at the Fort of White Fountain. He was baptized by Saint Cronan and educated by Saint Petroc of Cornwall. At seven years of age, his parents sent him to be educated by monks in whose care he remained until he was grown. After his ordination, he lived for seven years as a hermit in the upper regions of Glendalough (the Valley of Two Lakes). He was then discovered by a cattle farmer, who persuaded him to leave his solitude.

Saint Kevin went to Disert-Coemgen, where he founded a monastery for the disciples he attracted. Soon after, due to shortage of food, he moved his community to Glendalough, farther up the glen to the place where two sparkling rivers met. Here at Glendalough, he established his permanent monastery, to which numerous disciples soon flocked. He made a pilgrimage to Rome to bring back the blessing of the pope for his community, and it is said that he brought back numerous holy relics.

King Coleman of Faielain sent his infant son to be cared for by Saint Kevin, after having lost his other sons by deaths that the king blamed on evil spirits. Since there were no cows in the glen, Saint Kevin commanded a doe he saw with her fawn to give half her milk to his foster child; but a wolf came up to the doe and killed her fawn. Saint Kevin worked a great miracle then; he commanded the wolf to take the place of the fawn. The beast obliged him and, as a result, the king’s son grew up strong and healthy. In this way, it is said that the foster child was nourished by the wonderful works of God and Saint Kevin.

Saint Kevin was referred to as a soldier of Christ, over the land of Ireland, a high name over the sea waves, and a bright warrior in the Glen of the Two Lakes. His fame as a teacher and holy man had spread far and wide. Many people came to seek his help and guidance. Although he was widely noted, Saint Kevin was always a hermit and a pilgrim at heart, and disliked being tied down. Until his death, he presided over his monastery in Glendalough, living his life by fasting, praying and teaching.

Saint Kevin is said to have died of natural causes at the age of one hundred and twenty. He was canonized in 1903. His feast is observed throughout Ireland and other parts of the world on June 3rd.