Feast of Saint Kevin

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Homily notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin

Pro Cathedral 3 June 2019


” We celebrate the Feast of Saint Kevin who is one of two principal patrons of the Archdiocese of Dublin.  This feast offers us an opportunity to reflect on and pray about the theme of renewal of the Church within our diocese.


The diocese of Dublin has two principal patrons:  Saint Kevin and Saint Lawrence O’Toole.  Both, even though they lived centuries apart, received their formation at the Monastery of Glendalough.


Glendalough is not just the ruins of a monastery of the past.  Glendalough was a significant place for renewal of the Church and a place of reflection on the role faith in the formation of the social order and of a peaceful society. The history of Glendalough is not without its relevance for our time.


Folklore tells us that Kevin was born in 498 into a noble Leinster family. He studied for the priesthood in the monastery of Killnamanagh and after ordination he immediately set out to establish a hermitage in Glendalough. For many years, Kevin lived the life of a hermit with an extraordinary closeness to nature.


Despite living as a hermit, his fame as a teacher and holy man spread and disciples began to arrive in growing numbers to seek his help and guidance.   Glendalough grew into a place of learning and a place for the formation of the clergy, a place of prayer and a place of spiritual renewal where people came to find new depth in their lives.


Today many seek such a spirituality adapted to our times.  Our Gospel reading challenges all of us to reflect on the fact that “life means more than food and the body more than clothing”.  True faith must open out for us a deeper understanding of who we are and what life means.   The Gospel reminds us that the God who has created the wonderful beauty of nature is the one who can lead us towards a renewed understanding of the beauty of our own life.


Perhaps today we have acquired a further understanding of this Gospel reading.  We must affirm that life is more than food and the body more than clothing.  We must also recognise how the self-centred culture of the way many of us live has actually damaged the original beauty of nature and creation.   The care of the environment depends on a spiritual culture.  A culture without authentic spirituality will damage both humankind and the environment.  Faith is not something that removes us from the realities of the world.  Christian spirituality is not an added extra, but a factor of integration in our lives.


Glendalough grew over centuries and as the centuries passed this very desire for spirituality began to have its influence beyond the needs of individuals.   Glendalough became an influence on society and the values that should inspire society.  By the time of Saint Laurence O’Toole, Glendalough had become a workshop for peace, and a spirituality of peaceful and a caring society.


Glendalough attracted.  There was something in the makeup of Glendalough and the culture of the monastery that made it a place that attracted people.


Renewal in the Church requires communities that attract by living a spirituality truly rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.   Renewal strategies will only work if they are embedded in a community that attracts through its prayerfulness and by the way its members witness to faith.  Faith comes through attraction.  It cannot be imposed or marketed as you would with commercial and media values.


Christian believers are called today as in any time in the past to be active in the process of shaping the future of Irish culture.  This is not easy.  It is not just that there are forces in society that are hostile to the Church.   It is because many in our society no longer see Church institutions as they experience them as being capable of presenting the teaching of Jesus in a manner in which is attractive.


The Church is called to be present within a society in which many no longer feel a warmth towards it. There are elements of what constitute our contemporary institutions that are past their sell-by-dates and many appear to be alienating.  Institution can entrap. They are reformed not by tweaking their image on their boundaries, but by restoring their heart and authenticity and bond with Jesus Christ.


“Life is more than food and the body more than clothing”.  The Church must represent in any society a point of challenge, which leads us beyond the moment towards the transcendental and towards a God who loves and who cares and who protects every element of his creation.


We thank God for those who work for renewal in the Church and we invoke the intercession of the Saints of Glendalough on all those who lead the way.