Celtic and Old English Saints          23 February

* St. Boisil of Melrose
* St. Milburga of Wenlock
* St. Jurmin

St. Boisil (Boswell) of Melrose, Abbot
Died c. 664. Saint Boisil was the prior of the famous abbey of Melrose
(Mailross), situated on the Tweed River in a great forest in
Northumberland, while Saint Eata was abbot. Both were English youths
trained in monasticism by Saint Aidan.
Saint Bede says that Boisil was a man of sublime virtues, imbued with a
prophetic spirit. His eminent sanctity drew Saint Cuthbert to Melrose
rather than to Lindisfarne in his youth. It was from Boisil that
Cuthbert learned the sacred scriptures and virtue.

Saint Boisil had the holy names of the adorable Trinity ever on his
lips. He repeated the name Jesus Christ with a wonderful sentiment of
devotion, and often with such an abundance of tears that others would
weep with him. With tender affection he would frequently say, "How good
a Jesus we have!" At the first sight of Saint Cuthbert, Boisil said to
bystanders, "Behold a servant of God!"

Bede produces the testimony of Saint Cuthbert, who declared that Boisil
foretold to him the chief things that afterwards happened to him. Three
years beforehand he foretold of the great pestilence of 664, and that he
himself should die of it, but that Eata the abbot should survive.

In addition to continually instructing his brothers in religion, Boisil
made frequent excursions into the villages to preach to the poor, and to
bring straying souls on to the paths of truth and life. He was also
known for his aid to the poor.

Again, Boisil told Cuthbert, recovering from the plague, "You see,
brother, that God has delivered you from this disease, nor shall you
ever feel it again, nor die at this time; but my death being at hand,
neglect not to learn something from me so long as I shall be able to
teach you, which will be no more than seven days." So Cuthbert asked,
"And what will be best for me to read which may be finished in seven
days." To which Boisil replied, "The Gospel of Saint John, which we may
in that time read over, and confer upon as much as shall be necessary."

Having accomplished the reading in seven days, the man of God, Boisil,
became ill and died in extraordinary jubilation of soul, out of his
earnest desire to be with Christ.

During his life he repeatedly instructed his brothers, "That they would
never cease giving thanks to God for the gift of their religious
vocation; that they would always watch over themselves against self-love
and all attachment to their own will and private judgment, as against
their capital enemy; that they would converse assiduously with God by
interior prayer, and labor continually to attain to the most perfect
purity of heart, this being the true and short road to the perfection of
Christian virtue."

Bede relates that Saint Boisil continued after his death to interest
himself particularly in obtaining divine mercy and grace for his country
and his friends. He appeared twice to one of his disciples, giving him a
charge to assure Saint Egbert, who had been hindered from preaching the
Gospel in Germany, that God commanded him to repair the monasteries of
Saint Columba on Iona and in the Orkneys, and to instruct them in the
right manner of celebrating Easter.

The relics of Boisil were translated to Durham, and deposited near those
of his disciple, Saint Cuthbert, in 1030 (Benedictines, Delaney,

St. Milburga (Milburgh) of Wenlock, Abbess
Died c. 700 or 722; feast of the translation of her relics, June 25. The
ruins of Wenlock Abbey in Shropshire, dating from the 11th century,
remind us of Saint Milburga, whose name still lingers in that area. She
was one of a family of eminent saints and belonged to the royal house of

How often a good mother is blessed in her children! Her mother Domneva
(Domna Ebba or Ermenburga; f.d. November 19), princess of Kent, had
three daughters: Milburga, Mildred (f.d. July 13), and Mildgytha (f.d.
today), each of whom grew up to follow the pattern of her mother's
faith, and each, after a life wholly devoted to Christ, was glorified as
a saint.

Those were the days when the daughters of kings were proud and eager to
dedicate their wealth and talents in Christian leadership and to pour
out their youth and strength in the service of the Church. They founded
and ruled great abbeys, taught the young, cared for the sick, and
relieved the poor.

Milburga, like her mother before her, surrendered her high estate,
forsook the luxury and comfort of her home, and counted it her highest
privilege to serve God in a consecrated Christian life. Helped by her
father, Merewald, an Anglian chieftain, and her uncle Wulfhere, king of
Mercia, she founded the monastery of Wenlock, which was placed under the
direction of Saint Botulf of East Anglia (f.d. June 17). Its first
abbess was Liobsynde, a French nun from Chelles. Its second was
Milburga, who was consecrated abbess by the Greek Archbishop Saint
Theodore (f.d. September 19). It was no ordinary monastery; everything
about it reflected the grace and fragrance of her own pure spirit. The
gardens were full of the choicest flowers, the orchards bore the
sweetest fruits, and within its walls was found, we are told, the very
peace of heaven.

By her sheer goodness Milburga converted many to the Christian faith,
and this in a dark and primitive age when, outside the monastery walls,
the countryside was wild and remote, and full of unknown dangers. One
day, for example, on one of her errands of mercy, she was terrified by a
neighbouring princeling who, wishing to marry her, intercepted her with
a band of soldiers, but she providentially escaped. In her flight she
crossed a small stream called the Corve, and he, following, found when
he reached it that the waters had risen and his plan was thwarted. The
place where it happened it called to this day Stoke Saint Milburgh.

She loved flowers, birds (over which she had a mysterious power),
country life, and country people, to sit and work in the sun and tend
the herbs in her garden, and to visit in the villages around. People
came to her with their troubles and ailments and ascribed to her
miraculous cures. Milburga was venerated for her humility, holiness, the
miracles she performed, and for the gift of levitation she possessed.

According to Boniface, the famous Vision of the Monk of Wenlock occurred
during Milburga's abbacy. Goscelin also preserved her testament, which
is a long, apparently authentic list of lands that belonged to her at
her death.

When she was on her deathbed, she said to her followers, "I have been
mother to you. I have watched over you like a mother, with pious care.
And in mercy, I go the way of all flesh. A higher call invites me." One
by one they said farewell, gave her the sacraments, and after her death
buried her body near the altar of the abbey.

Her tomb was long venerated but its site was unknown when the Cluniac
monks from La-Charite-sur-Loire refounded Wenlock in 1079. The church
had a silver casket that contained her relics and documents describing
the site of her grave, near an altar then unknown. Apparently, the
church was destroyed by the Danes.

The monks excavated an old, disused church. Thus, centuries later, two
boys who were playing among its ruins fell through the pavement by the
broken altar, as a result of which her tomb was rediscovered. When
opened, there came from it a heavenly sweetness, and the lost garden of
the monastery seemed filled again with the fragrance of the flowers she
had planted.

Among the miracles documented were the healing of lepers and the blinds,
and, the vomiting of a worm that had caused a wasting disease. The
approval of so distinguished a personage, ensured the revival of
Milburga's cultus. Goscelin wrote her "vita" in the late 11th century.
Her feast was common in English calendars from the Bosworth Psalter (c.
1000) onwards (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Gill,

In art, Saint Milburgh holds the abbey of Wenlock. There may be geese
near her. She is venerated at Stoke (Roeder).

St. Jurmin
7th century. Saint Jurmin was an east Anglian prince--either the son or
nephew of King Anna. It is more likely that he was a nephew because
modern historians doubt the Anna had any sons. He may have been the son
of ?thelhere, the brother and successor of Anna. His relics were laid at
Blythburgh in Suffolk before being enshrined at Bury Saint Edmunds in
1095. William of Malmesbury mentions his tomb at Bury (with Botulf's)
but reports that he could learn nothing more about him than that he was
a brother of Saint Etheldreda (Benedictines, Farmer).


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY: Penguin

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. (1947). The Book of
Saints. NY: Macmillan.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great Christians for
Daily Devotion, vol. I. London: Epworth Press.

Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's Lives of the
Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints. London: Virtue & Co.

Roeder, H. (1956). Saints and Their Attributes, Chicago: Henry Regnery.

For All the Saints:

An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West

These Lives are archived at:

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