Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Kevin is the anglicization of Caoimhin (pronounced either kee-veen or kwee veen) from the Old irish Coemghen meaning 'the Fair- begotten'. Little original material about his life survives. He was born about 498 into a family which belonged to the Dál Messe Corb, a noble Leinster people who lived in what is now West Wicklow.

Kevin or Coemghen is said to have been baptised by St. Crónán and studied for the priesthood in Cell na Manach (Killnamanagh or 'Church of the Monks'), now a suburb of Dublin. After Bishop Lugidus ordained Kevin a priest he left Killnamanagh and set out to find his own hermitage. On arrival in Glendalough (the Valley of the Two Lakes) Kevin chose the area of the upper lake and settled on the south side of the foot of that lake in St. Kevin's Bed, an artificial cave about thirty feet above the level of the lake which was originally a Bronze Age tomb. Kevin lived the life of a hermit there with an extraordinary closeness to nature and his companions were the animals and birds all around him. He lived as a hermit for seven years wearing only animal skins, sleeping on stones and eating very sparingly.

Disciples were soon attracted to Kevin and lead to the the establishment of a further settlement enclosed by a wall, called Kevin's Cell and Reefert Church, situated nearer the lakeshore. All this building and expansion would have bothered Kevin who never really wanted to leave his hermit's life and seemed to have sought solitude and the life of a hermit whenever possible. By 540 Saint Kevin's fame as a teacher and holy man had spread far and wide. Many people came to seek his help and guidance.In time Glendalough grew into a renowned seminary of saints and scholars.

In 544 Kevin went to the Hill of Uisneach in Co.Westmeath to establish a league of brotherly friendship with other holy abbots. Until his death around 618 Kevin presided over his monastery in Glendalough, living his life by fasting, praying and teaching.

St Kevin is one of the patron saints of the diocese of Dublin and we badly need his intercession and spirit of prayer and penance now.

The name is, of course quite common in Ireland. To my knowledge, the female variant exists only in Irish and is spelt Caoimhe and pronounced kee-veh or kwee-veh. As a surname it appears in O'Cuiv or O'Keefe.

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