St. Kevin

25 May 08 | Posted in Animals, Saints

I took this photo of St. Kevin at Our Lady of Knock Shrine in Ireland when I visited in early April 2008. Somehow, the setting of just-budding trees was perfect for the saint who was reputed to stand still until a nest of birds had hatched in his hand.dsc00304.JPG

Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s great poet, wrote a poem about it – St. Kevin and the Blackbird:

   “Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked

    Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked

    Into the network of eternal life

    Is moved to pity; now he must hold his hand

    Like a branch out in the rain and sun for weeks

    Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.”

St. Kevin has a lot of animal stories attached to his legend: the boar that came to him for protection against hunters; healing the pet goose of the King of Glendalough; the otter that brought him a salmon for dinner every night; and having a doe and then a she-wolf wet nurse Faelan, the infant son of King Colman of the Faelain. The king blamed evil spirits for the deaths of his other children, but the one entrusted to the saint and the animals grew up healthy and strong.

The great connection of ancient Irish saints to nature, their wondrous relationships with the earth and its creatures and the miracles they inspire, is part of Celtic Christianity. It is also a part of their time, when people lived close to the land and relied on it for sustenance and spirituality.

By the same token, today’s saints and blessed individuals generally seem to be cityfolk primarily interested in politics. Their lack of connection by grace or inspiration with animals and the natural world is indicative of just how much connection to creation Catholicism has lost.

The works and life of Br. Thomas Merton, Sr. Dorothy Strang and the strong commitment by Pope Benedict to environmental protection are hopeful signs for Catholic environmentalists to take heart we may be experiencing a renaissance in creation-centered spirituality.

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