St. Ninian is reckoned the earliest Christian missionary to spread the Gospel message on Scottish soil. However, very little is known with certainty about his life. The main source for information in the historical record is the writings of the Venerable Bede. In his history of the British Church, he writes, "the southern Picts received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the Bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body)... The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians and is commonly called the White House [Candida Casa], because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual amongst the Britons." The Church founded by St. Ninian came to be called Whithorn, which later grew into an important center of Christianity in southern Scotland.
Tradition tells us that Ninian was born sometime during the fourth century, perhaps in Northern England, and died around 432 AD. During his education in Rome he may have been educated by Pope Damasus (366-384) and ordained priest and bishop by Pope Siricius (384-399). He ministered not only to his fellow Britons in the border region, but also to the Picts in Lothian and Fife. He is the first known bishop to minister in Scotland.
His feast is celebrated on September 16.
first to preach the Good News of Christ in our land,
hear our prayers and present them to the Lord,
whom you served so faithfully.
Gain for us a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
abundant vocations to the priesthood and religious life,
deeper faith in God's merciful love,
stronger love for God and for our neighbour,
a renewal of Christian life in our nation.
May we imitate your fidelity to the call of Christ and your
passion to share the truth He brought us, and so also be
found worthy to share in the heavenly reward. Amen.
Rev. Gerald Sharkey
Lord our God,
you brought the Picts and Britons
to a knowledge of the faith
through the teaching of Saint Ninian, the bishop:
in your goodness, listen to our prayers:
grant that we who have received from him
the light of your truth
may remain strong in faith and active in works of charity.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.