3rd June

Deepest Strength

Jesus went away to a hill to pray. When evening came the boat with the disciples in it was in the middle of the lake, while Jesus was alone on the land. Mark 6:46,47

Glendalough, in the shadows of the Wicklow mountains, became a place of grace through the obedience to God of one man – Kevin. He lived as a hermit beside the lower lake for seven years, clad only in animal skins, with stone for his bed. He spent long hours up to his waist in the lake praising God. His great strength and endurance sprang from his extraordinary faith and his commitment to monastic celibacy and the teachings of the Desert spiritual tradition. As well as being a hermit and a founder of monasteries, he wrote poetry and prose, and a Rule for monks in Irish verse. He was attractive, gentle, loving, with an unusual affinity with animals and birds.

He was deeply attracted to the poetic experience of the hermit life; courageous in his desire to draw out to the edge to test his strength and endurance. He chose hardship quite deliberately; his cell was on the dark side of the lake which remained in shadow for six months of the year. Why was this so? Perhaps it was a desire to feel very exposed; to test himself to the limit, and through that test to find his own deepest strength, but perhaps most of all it was through an ascetic way of life that he found the poetry of his own soul.
Michael Rodgers of Glendalough

The 10th. century Life of Kevin suggests that ‘the branches and leaves of the trees sometimes sang sweet songs to him, and heavenly music alleviated the severity of his life.’ Eventually many people joined Kevin, and he established a community beside the lower lake.

Let me not spoil one leaf, nor break one branch
Let me not plunder, blunder, pollute, exploit
But rather see and hear and touch and taste and smell
And in my sensing, know you well
Marie Connolly, a Glendalough pilgrim