The stories of the saints show us time and time again how God can take the unfortunate and sinful events of our lives and bring about good. The life of St. Kentigern is an example of God’s redeeming intervention.
Kentigern’s mother, Thenaw, was not married when she became pregnant. Her father, the British prince Lothus, was so angry with her that he banished her from his kingdom – even, according to some legends, pushing her off a cliff in a wagon. By the grace of God, Thenaw survived her father’s violent rage and sailed north to Scotland. Here, she enlisted the help of a monk, (St.) Servan (or Serf), in raising and educating her son. Kentigern was, therefore, brought up in the Irish monastic tradition, living an austere life, with much time spent in prayer and reciting of Psalms. His mentor gave Kentigern the nick-name “Mungo”, which means “dear one”.
At about the age of 25, Kentigern left the monastery of his childhood and began his missionary work. He settled along the river Clyde where he was welcomed by the Christian king. Many were brought to the Christian faith through the teaching of Kentigern and he founded a monastery which attracted many monks. The community became known as “glasgu” or “dear family” and the city of Glasgow grew up around the monastery. Around the year 540, Irish bishops consecrated Kentigern as bishop for the kingdom of Strathclyde.
But the smooth path of Kentigern’s life since his mother entrusted him to St. Servan came to an end around 553 when the people of Strathclyde were incited to reject Christianity and return to their former pagan practices. Kentigern left his monastery and exiled himself to Wales. There he first stayed with St. David and then, bringing good out of the evil of his loss in Scotland, he founded another monastery at Llanelwy. When in 573, the tide had turned in Scotland and Bishop Kentigern was able to return, he left this Welsh monastery under the guidance of one of the holy monks, St. Asaph by which name it was later called.
Bishop Kentigern first settled in Hoddam and then returned to Glasgow around 581. St. Columba visited him here and, as a sign of monastic friendship, the two exchanged pastoral staves. On January 13, the octave of Epiphany, in the year 603, St. Kentigern gave up this earthly life. He had cooperated with God’s plan for his life. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of his conception, he had been brought up as a faithful servant of God; despite the failure to maintain Christianity in Scotland for a time, he had strengthened the faith in Wales and then returned to Scotland for more missionary work.
We give thanks to God for the example of St. Kentigern and we ask for his prayers on our behalf. Holy Kentigern, pray for us.