A few days ago, I posted an icon and a few words about St Thaney, the mother of St Kentigern. A young woman, a child really, who was raped by a man in power, she was then rejected by her family who tried to kill her by pushing her from a cliff. For that time and that space, for that society and its values, she was a reject – not only a failure, but a damaging element. Not only someone who had fallen, but someone who had to be destroyed, pushed down and drowned.
We – in our parts of the world, at least – no longer have to worry about being thrown from a cliff into a river. But one can be pushed down from emotional cliffs, and one can drown in many other ways than physically. Values do change, but evil does not disappear, it merely finds new forms to tear us away from Life.
Because, when you draw the line under the life stories of St Thaney and her abusers, the real victims are not the young mother and her child. They found a way to keep unharmed from the poison thrown at them. They both found Christ, and in Christ, they found Life. The weak, the fragile, the abused were shown to be stronger than those who had served evil, because Sts Thaney and her son founded their strength on Christ, not on their human wealth or status.
Today we celebrate St Kentigern, St Thaney’s son – the still unborn child who was pushed off the cliff and into the cold waters with his mother. The saint was raised by his single mother, under the guidance of St Serf who had offered them protection. St Kentigern’s gentleness and kindness made him so loved by everyone that to this day, he is better known as St Mungo, which translates as ‘my dear one’.
There are many stories about St Mungo’s life and his miracles, but I like this little poem remembering four of them:
‘Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam’ (this last verse inspired our icon).
Each line refers to a particular miracle, but what touches me is the overwhelming silence and peacefulness that builds from one verse to the next. It reveals a human being who found his roots somewhere else, not in this world. A human being whose ‘flight’ was not dependant on this world, whose growth and song are free from the evil thrown at him by this world.
For, according to this world, St Mungo should not have even been born. The world had condemned him to death a long time ago, while he was still in his mother’s womb. The world had greeted this new life with hatred before it even saw the light of day. So Kentigern had to learn to fly despite his wings having been cut. He had to learn to sing despite having been shut down before he was even born.
There is a lot to learn from him. Today, St Kentigern is recognised as the protector of those who are bullied, oppressed and abused, and God only knows how much we need his prayers in a world increasingly run by bullies. Happy Feast, everyone. May we all be blessed, may we all be kept safe.