The collect for today, the Feast of Saint Ninian (c. 360 – c. 432), Bishop of Galloway, Apostle to the Picts (source):
Almighty and everlasting God,
who didst call thy servant Ninian to preach the gospel
to the people of northern Britain:
raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land,
heralds and evangelists of thy kingdom,
that thy Church may make known the immeasurable riches
of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Ninian was the first apostle of Christianity in Scotland. Born in Cumbria to Christian parents, he went to Rome for his education. After being ordained a priest and then a bishop, Ninian was commissioned by Pope Siricus to return to Britain to preach the Christian faith.
Tradition holds that Ninian’s mission to Scotland began in 397, when he landed at Whithorn on Solway Firth. The stone church he built there was known as Candida Casa (“White House”). Recent archaeological excavations in that area have found white masonry from what could be an ancient church.
Saint Ninian’s ministry was centred in the Whithorn and Galloway areas of Scotland, but he is also remembered for bringing the gospel to the “southern Picts”—people living in the areas now known as Perth, Fife, Stirling, Dundee, and Forfar.
As early as the 7th century, Christians were making pilgrimages to St. Ninian’s shrine. By the 12th century, a large cathedral had been built at Whithorn, but it fell into ruins after the Reformation. Yet today, pilgrims still travel there to visit St Ninian’s Cave, where the saint would go when he needed to pray in solitude.
During his 2010 visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Scotland on Saint Ninian’s Day.
Lord our God, You brought to Scotland the faith of the apostles through the teaching of St. Ninian. Grant that we, who have received from him the light of your truth, may remain strong in faith. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
Artwork: Saint Ninian, stained glass, Saint Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh Castle. Photograph taken by admin, 24 July 2004.