On 13th January the whole Church celebrated the feast of St Kentigern, the patron saint of Glasgow. By tradition he is said to have died in 614 in the middle of a baptism that he was conducting. Like many of those saints in those early centuries it is difficult to know facts about them. Later biographers were more interested in miracles assigned to them rather than the facts and details that might be of interest to us.
Kentigern or Mungo is said to have been from royal stock/ grandson of a tribal chief, whether we can believe that I am not sure, many saints of those days seem to have royal or distinguished ancestry attributed to them, perhaps to give them greater credibility. A biographer tells us that Mungo’s mother was thrown down a cliff because she had been raped, she survived this and she escaped to Fife. The young boy was raised by St Serf, a missionary active in Fife, who gave him the pet name Mungo. He began his own missionary activities at the age of 25 along the River Clyde. He built a Church near the Molendinar burn where the Cathedral in Glasgow stands today. Here’s were it gets a bit unclear, some disturbances erupted and he was evicted and went to Wales to work. When things had settled and a new leader had emerged he was called back to Scotland. At first he seems to have settled in Dumfriesshire only later arriving in what we now know as Glasgow, where the remainder of his life was spent.
St Mungo seems to have been very influenced by another person who had founded a Church in this area at the same time, St Cadoc. Difficult as it seems to us Cambuslang (as we know it now) was of equal importance to Glasgow then.
It is a nice thought to think that Mungo himself who travelled the length of the Clyde would have stood in the fields and walked the banks of the Clyde here. He would have known the people that lived and worked here. He would have sat down with them and he would certainly have spoken with Cadoc who lived here for a short time and built a church here, which is the early origins of this parish.
Those biographies don’t tell us what we would like to know. What he thought, what he did, his trials, a detailed account of his life. Why was he so successful? Was he persuasive? Was he credible?
We can imagine it wouldn’t have been easy. Wild and brutal times. Outbursts of tribal violence were frequent. Hunger and sickness were just round the corner. Superstitions abounded. How did he become so successful?
Think maybe the first thing to realise it wasn’t a single handed operation – you have to de-bunk the myths. He probably was one of a number of missionaries who were very active in those days. Also it is easy to exaggerate his success: he didn’t convert whole tribes, he didn’t conquer whole lands; he wasn’t fantastically successful. It probably was a slow process, he probably set things in motion, others would build on his work.
But the fruits of his work were not small. A great city grew round his church. A place where generations of people came to know as their home. A city rich in wealth and education and culture. A city rich in the wealth of Christian faith.
Mungo’s faith began in the same way as the men in the Gospel. The disciples of John the Baptist and Andrew and Peter come to know the friendship of Jesus. There is a meeting between them that changes everything, changes the course of their life, points them in a different direction. Mungo knew this experience for himself, to meet and encounter Jesus changes everything.
Mungo was to prove that. In these lands in which the River Clyde runs through - Mungo changed the course of people’s life. He told them of Jesus and that changed the course of the life of the people who lived then and would live in these same lands in which the mighty Clyde flows. People would be carried away by the story as Andrew and Peter were as John the Baptist disciples were as Mungo and Cadoc were as all of us have been.