St Kevin and Harvest
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools
To use the story of St Kevin to encourage us to think about harvest and the world in which we live.
Preparation and materials
You will need an image of St Kevin and the means to display it during the assembly, available at: http://tinyurl.com/zsmf4eu
You may wish to ask another staff member to illustrate the actions of St Kevin by standing with his or her arms stretched out during the assembly with a toy bird or weight in one hand.
You will also need the poem ‘St Kevin and the Blackbird’ by Seamus Heaney, available at: http://tinyurl.com/jj44y6e. You may wish to use just the first four verses.
- You will also need Psalm 104.10-23, available at: http://tinyurl.com/h336yw5
Ask the children if they know what a ‘monk’ is. Explain that the definition of a monk is ‘a member of a religious community of men typically living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience’.
There are still monks who live and work around the world today.
The following story is about St Kevin, a monk who lived in Ireland in the sixth century.
Once upon a time, there was a young monk called Kevin. A monk’s job, generally speaking, is to spend all day reading the Bible and praying.
What do you think - would you like a job like that? Simple food, no TV, no fashionable clothes, no holidays! Kevin enjoyed it.
He used to go to a tiny stone chapel to pray. It was so small that it was difficult to pray in it. That’s because in those days, in Ireland, when a monk prayed, he didn’t clasp his hands together. Instead, he held them stretched out at his sides, to make the shape of the cross.
(At this point, you may like to ask the staff member to move to the front and hold out their arms.)
In fact, the chapel was so small that Kevin couldn’t even stretch out his arms, so he knocked a hole in two walls. Whenever he prayed, he stuck his arms out through the holes!
One day, Kevin was busy praying, with his arms poking out through the holes in the walls, when a blackbird came and landed on one of his hands. Kevin didn’t mind and he continued praying. Six hours later, when he stopped praying, he realized that not only was the blackbird still there, but it had started to build a nest.
What was he going to do?
Should he pull in his arm and scatter the twigs of the nest? Or should he leave his arms sticking out?
What would you do?
Kevin decided to leave his arms where they were.
Imagine what Kevin must have felt like as the hours passed . . . and the days. It takes about two weeks for the greenish-blue eggs of the blackbird to hatch. After that, it takes about another two weeks for the chicks to grow, develop wings and leave the nest. So Kevin would have had to stay like that for about a month!
(Ask your volunteer if they could stay in that position for such a long time!)
Kevin didn’t flinch, even though his whole body must have been in agony. He stayed in the same position until the tiny blackbirds had hatched and left the nest.
There are lots of stories about St Kevin in which he is kind to the natural world around him. In one story, he even refuses God’s offer to flatten some mountains so that a monastery could be built because, as he said, ‘all the wild creatures on these mountains are my house mates, gentle and familiar with me, and they would be sad’ at the loss of their home.
St Kevin is an example of someone who did not just take from God’s Earth. He tried to help the Earth and support it, even when it cost him greatly. Maybe we ought to follow his example.
- Seamus Heaney wrote a poem about St Kevin and the blackbird. You may wish to read the poem or ask one of the children to read it. It is available at: http://tinyurl.com/jj44y6e. You may wish to use just the first four verses.
Time for reflection
Harvest is a time to celebrate. Psalm 104 was written by Jewish people long ago. It is a song of praise to God for all the beautiful things that he has given to us on Earth. It is a long psalm, because there are lots of things to thank God for, so we are just going to listen to verses 10-23. As you listen to the psalm, try to imagine all the things that it describes.
Read Psalm 104.10-23, available at: http://tinyurl.com/h336yw5
Symphony No. 4, ‘The Inextinguishable’, by Carl Nielsen.