A Higher Calling- Why My Family Celebrates Our Saints

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On Nov. 1, many Christians worldwide will celebrate All Saints’ Day. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, All Saints’ Day is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost. The holiday is dedicated to all saints, both remembered and forgotten by history, particularly those without a designated feast day. But throughout the year, our family celebrates several saints individually — particularly the ones who bear our names.

Christians typically receive their patron saint when they are baptized. Each year my family likes to celebrate our particular saint’s feast day. Of course, not everyone has a patron saint whose name is the same as your first name. I thought this would be my path, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a Saint Kevin whose feast day is on June 3.

Kevin of Glendalough was named Cóemgen in Old Irish, meaning “of noble birth,” which I get a kick out of. Saint Kevin’s life is not particularly well documented. Purportedly, he was born in the year 498 and died in 618. That’s quite a long life, but people say he made it to 120 years old by fasting and praying.

When Saint Kevin was a baby, his family did not have much money. Legend has it that a white cow appeared at his parent’s door every morning and evening, and they used the milk from the cow to feed him. During his early adult years, Saint Kevin lived as a hermit with only birds and animals as companions.

Kevin was renowned for being close to nature. Folklore says that he held out his hand for a blackbird, who proceeded to make a nest. Kevin is said to have stayed still, protecting the bird until her eggs hatched. He eventually attracted disciples, who came to him in droves for guidance, and later founded a monastery in Glendalough, Ireland.

You can visit his chapel and his home, and even an area referred to as Kevin’s Bed, in Glendalough today. Calling Kevin’s Bed a cave is a bit too grand — it’s a man-made carving in the rock face (see the picture above) that is too small for even an adult to stand. Kevin must have used it only for sleeping, hence its’ name. His approach there each night would have been treacherous along the rocks and near the water, and its’ precarious location means no one should attempt to reach it in modern times. You can, however, view it from afar.

Each of my family members commemorates their saint’s day with prayer and remembrance, and we typically share a meal to celebrate. But more than anything, our saint’s day is a time to contemplate our higher purpose. We can’t all dedicate our lives to solitude and prayer, but we can make our existence have a deeper meaning. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily minutiae, but it’s nice to have a reminder that our existence may have a greater calling.

We’re supposed to dedicate our lives to making things better for our family, friends, and other community members we encounter — including, for me, patients. Practicing your faith includes how you interact with and care for other people. I’m no saint, but I can work every day to be a better person. That’s what celebrating Kevin of Glendalough inspires me to remember.  


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