14 January. The ancient kingdom of Cumbria or Strathclyde extended from the Clyde to the Derwent in Cumberland. It had been evangelised by Saint Ninian, but, in the course of two centuries, through constant warfare and strife, the Faith had almost disappeared when, in the middle of the sixth century, Saint Kentigern was raised up to be its new apostle. The saint came of a royal race, and was born about A.D. 518. He was brought up from childhood by a holy hermit of Culross called Serf, who out of the love he bore the boy changed his name of Kentigern (signifying “lord and master”) to that of Mungo (the well beloved). It is under the latter name that he is best known in Scotland. It should be noted, however, that the benefactor of the young Kentigern, though possibly bearing the same name, cannot be identified with the well-known Saint Serf of Culross, who, according to modern historians, must have flourished in a later century. At the completion of his education Kentigern fixed his abode at Cathures, now known as Glasgow, and was joined by many disciples, who lived under his rule in a kind of monastic discipline. His holy life caused him to be raised—much against his will—to the episcopal state. He fixed upon Glasgow for his see, and ruled his flock with all the ardour and holiness of an apostle. Simple and mortified in life, he abstained entirely from wine and flesh, and often passed two days without food. He wore haircloth next his skin, slept on a stone, and often rose in the night to praise God. Throughout his life he preserved the purity of his baptismal innocence. His pastoral staff was of simple wood. He always wore his priestly stole, to be ready to perform the functions of his sacred office.
Driven from Glasgow by the enmity of a wicked king, the saint took refuge with Saint David in South Wales. He subsequently founded the monastery known afterwards, from the disciple who succeeded him in its government, as Saint Asaph’s, and here more than nine hundred monks are said to have lived under his rule. Later on he was recalled to Glasgow, and after a life of apostolic zeal he received through an angel, on the Octave of the Epiphany, his summons to eternal life. Fortifying himself by the Sacraments, and exhorting his disciples to charity and peace and constant obedience to the Holy Catholic Church, their mother, he breathed his last, being at least 85 years old. His saintly body was laid to rest where the magnificent under-croft of Saint Mungo’s Cathedral, Glasgow, was raised to his honour in after ages.
Many old churches in Scotland bear the dedication of Saint Mungo; the chief of these is Lanark parish church. There is a parish bearing his name in Dumfries-shire, and many holy wells are called after him; one of these is in Glasgow Cathedral, others are in the precincts of Glasgow, and at Huntly, Peebles, Ayr, Dumfries, Glengairn (Aberdeenshire), also at Currie, Penicuik and Mid-Calder, near Edinburgh. There is also Saint Mungo’s Isle in Loch Leven. Besides these Scottish dedications, there are seven churches in Cumberland which bear his name. It is noteworthy that all of them bear the more popular title of Mungo. Within about six miles of Carmarthen, in Wales, is the ancient parish church of Llangendeirne—”Church of Kentigern”; this is one instance, at least, of a dedication to the saint under his real name, and maybe the only one. There were formerly two fairs of Saint Mungo kept in Alloa each year, where the church was dedicated to this saint. Saint Kentigern is said to have made no less than seven pilgrimages to Rome in the course of his life. His feast, which had long been celebrated by the Benedictines of Fort-Augustus and the Passionists of Glasgow, was extended to the whole of Scotland by Leo XIII in 1898. As he died on the Octave of the Epiphany, the feast is kept on the following day, January 14.