"St. Thaney and her son, St. Mungo"
Those are the Lives of St Thaney who became pregnant after being raped when she was very much still a child and her son's St Mungo.
We hear about female saints avoiding rape, either via escape (St. Thekla), or through martyrdom (St. Lydia the New Martyr). So it’s obviously a thought that crosses our minds that since all these great saints escaped rape, does that mean that women who don’t escape or aren’t martyred are less sanctified in some way? The answer, of course, is no.
Look at St. Mungo, also known as St. Kentigern. This incredible saint, who I admittedly need to learn more about, famous for being one of the early Celtic saints. His mother, a little-known woman- so little known that I couldn’t even find a good icon of her to post!- is also a saint. And she conceived St. Mungo out of rape. St. Thaney, or Teneu, Theneva, or any other multiple ways to say her name, was a young princess in Scotland. She’s actually one of the patron saints of Glasgow. Her own patron saint and namesake was St. Enoch, and Teneu is a feminized version of Enoch. What a saint to be named after!
Unfortunately, when she was still very young, a rival noble saw her beauty and wanted her, and dressed in the guise of a woman and came upon her. The story of her life says that she was so young and pure that she didn’t even know that what happened to her was sexual, or rather the violent inverse of something God created for spouses to show love and procure children. Her father, instead of going after the rapist, decided to try and hide the shame that was his raped, impregnated daughter, and threw her off of a cliff, intending to murder not just her but her unborn son.
But Christ had a plan for St. Thaney.
She and her unborn child survived the fall, and had landed by the beach. A small boat was there, and she got into it, and the boat sailed her and her child to the community of St. Serf, another Celtic saint. He welcomed this unwedded mother, still a young girl, into his monastic community, and she gave birth to and raised St. Kentigern there. It was St. Serf himself who gave St. Kentigern the nickname “Mungo”, which means “very dear one”.
A child of rape, called “very dear one”, by a man who hardly knew him or his mother. How very Christ-like St. Serf was in his hospitality and bountiful love for two people unwanted by their own family.
Legends then seperate on the rest of St. Thaney’s life. Some say she married, and the most popular one is that she ended her life as an abbess in pre-schismatic Scotland. And she’s a patron saint of Glasgow. St. Enoch’s Square in Glasgow is actually named for her, not St. Enoch of the Old Testament. A wonderful, blessed life for someone who suffered so much.
So what does this hagiography teach us? That the sanctity of a woman is not measured by if her body has been dirtied, because like St. Febronia- who was stripped naked and had her breasts cut off before her martyrdom because she would not deny Christ her Bridegroom- or St. Irene Chrysovalantou- who a demon knocked a lamp onto while she prayed in her cell, but she didn’t cease praying until a nun smothered the flames, and then her wounds weeped myrrh- Christ can take any violence of this evil world and turn it into a beautiful, beautiful icon. As we were reminded of this Sunday morning in church by my priest, Fr. John, Christ taught that His grace is sufficient, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
It also teaches us that although we are not all saints (although hopefully, through God’s mercy and compassion alone, we can strive to become saints), this saint shows us that EVERY. LIFE. MATTERS. A young girl turned away from her home, and an unborn child within her, where taken in without question by monastics, who’s only link to the two were through our brotherhood in Christ. St. Thaney’s own father didn’t want her, and thus St. Mungo’s grandfather didn’t even want him. But a stranger, full of the light of Christ, called a child of rape “very dear one”. We should always emulate this.
And it shows that it doesn’t matter if a child is conceived out of rape. The life of that child matters, if not to the family, then to others, but even if others don’t care, God ALWAYS cares. And St. Thaney had none of the resources that we, in our 21st century comfort, have to lean upon in hard times, like family centers and food drives and women’s shelters. All she had was a boat and her faith. And that was enough. And Christ rewarded her, her child, and St. Serf with a crown for their prevailings.
Glory to God in the Highest, and may Ss. Thaney, Mungo, and Serf intercede for us all in this modern era where people dare to question the worth of a child’s life.