Stuff of Lore

The church today also remembers a Celtic saint and Bishop after my own heart, Saint Ninian, Scotsman and the Stuff of Lore.

Not much is known about Saint Ninian, at least not much that can be proven by historical record. Most formal works regarding his life and deeds are dubious, the Life of Ninian penned by St. Aelred chief amongst him.

But that’s kind of why I like him.

The Celts believed that life was best lived in story form. Historical fact is cold; historical fiction is alive. When the two hold hands a great adventure follows, which is why the Celts hold tightly to story, a mix of fact and fiction.

Regardless, we know that Ninian was the first Bishop of Galloway, that he was a Scotsman who was Romanized by the conquering warriors, and that he was ordained in Rome but sent back to his homeland to preach to the stubborn Picts and Celts there. In 397 he established a white stone church at Whithorn in Galloway, and from there he spoke to his fellow Scots about the beauty of the Gospel, intermingling Christianity with the ancient Celtic ways.

While we don’t know much about the actual missionary work of St. Ninian, we do know that he laid the groundwork for St. Columba, of whose work we know quite a bit!

St. Ninian is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes historical fact and historical fiction must hold hands for amazing stories to happen (looking at you, Scriptures!), and that the groundwork we lay now in our time prepares the way for others in their time.

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