St. Ninian Bishop of Whithorn (Nynia, Ninnidh)
Apostle to the Picts, Abbot of Candida Casa (White House) Monastery, Bishop of Whithorn
Bishop and confessor; date of birth unknown; died about 432; the first Apostle of Christianity in Scotland. The earliest account of him is in Bede (Hist. Eccles., III, 4): “the southern Picts received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who bad been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the Bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body), is now in the possession of the English nation. The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians and is commonly called the White House [Candida Casa], because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual amongst the Britons”. The facts given in this passage form practically all we know of St. Ninian’s life and work.
The Legend of Melangell and the Hare
Our ministry is dedicated to Saint Melangell, she has always been our patron saint. She’s a wonderful Celtic saint who spent her life trying to make a safe place for folks amongst the thorns, thickets, and briarpatches of society and of the world and that is our calling as well, to create sanctuary and to bring back the wandering. While she wasn’t a shepherd of sheep, she was in fact a “shepherd of hares” and of course of people. Here is her story…
There is a legend that survives from long ago, known to Welsh school children who have learned it from their mothers’ lips. The legend concerns a maiden, an Irish girl whose father had arranged for her to marry a chieftain back in 607 CE. She did not want to marry this chieftain – he was old and she was young. She joined a band of Irish hermits who came across the sea to preach the Christian gospels to the Pagan Welsh. The maiden’s name was, in Latin, Monacella. In Welsh it became Melangell. She travelled to the Pennant Valley, in Powys, in the 7th Century and lived in a cave in the hillside.
One day Brochwel, mighty Prince of Powys, was out hunting with his men and his hounds. The hounds raised a hare that took refuge in a thicket. The hounds were urged on but fled howling. Their huntsman raised his horn to his lips and was unable to remove it. On pursuit, the Prince found a young woman standing there – the hare had run under her long skirts to hide. The young woman told Brochwel that she lived in the valley, where she had come to take refuge. The Prince was so impressed by the young woman’s godliness, that he granted her the valley as a sanctuary for people and animals. Here she founded a religious community.