Celtic and Old English Saints          31 August

* St. Aidan of Lindisfarne
* St. Cuthburga of Wimborne
* St. Eanswitha of Folkestone
* St. Columban of Ireland

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, Bishop
Born in Ireland; died 651. Saint Aidan is said to have been a disciple
of Saint Senan (f.d. March 8) on Scattery Island, but
nothing else is known with certainty of his early life before he became
a monk of Iona. He was well received by King Oswald (f.d. August 9),
who had lived in exile among the Irish monks of Iona and had requested
monks to evangelize his kingdom. The first missionary, Corman, was
unsuccessful because of the roughness of his methods, so Aidan was sent
to replace him. Oswald bestowed the isle of Lindisfarne (Holy Island)
on Aidan for his episcopal seat and his diocese reached from the Forth
to the Humber.

By his actions he showed that he neither sought nor loved the things of
this world; the presents which were given to him by the king or other
rich men he distributed among the poor. He rarely attended the king at
table, and never without taking with him one or two of his clergy, and
always afterwards made haste to get away and back to his work.

The centre of his activity was Lindisfarne, off the coast of
Northumberland, between Berwick and Bamburgh. Here he established a
monastery under the Rule of Saint Columcille; it was not improperly been
called the English Iona, for from it the paganism of Northumbria was
gradually dispelled and barbarian customs undermined. The community was
not allowed to accumulate wealth; surpluses were applied to the needs of
the poor and the manumission of slaves. From Lindisfarne Aidan made
journeys on foot throughout the diocese, visiting his flock and
establishing missionary centres.

Aidan's apostolate was advanced by numerous miracles according to Saint
Bede (f.d. May 25), who wrote his biography. It was also aided by the
fact that Aidan preached in Irish and the king provided the translation.
Saint Aidan took to this monastery 12 English boys to be raised there,
and he was indefatigable in tending to the welfare of children and
slaves, for the manumission of many of whom he paid from alms bestowed
on him.

The great king Saint Oswald assisted his bishop in every possible way
until his death in battle against the pagan King Penda in 642. A
beautiful story preserved by Saint Bede tells that Oswald was sitting at
dinner one Easter day, Saint Aidan at his side, when he was told a great
crowd of poor people were seeking alms at the gate. Taking a massive
silver dish, he loaded it with meat from his own table and ordered it
distributed amongst the poor, and ordered the silver dish to be broken
in fragments, and those too distributed to them. Aidan, Bede says, took
hold of the king's right hand, saying "Let this hand never decay!" His
blessing was fulfilled. After Oswald's death his incorrupt right arm was
preserved as a sacred relic.

Oswald's successor, Saint Oswin (f.d. August 20), also supported Aidan's
apostolate and when in 651, Oswin was murdered in Gilling, Aidan
survived him only 11 days. He died at the royal castle of Bamburgh,
which he used as a missionary centre, leaning against a wall of the
church where a tent had been erected to shelter him. He was first
buried in the cemetery of Lindisfarne, but when the new church of Saint
Peter was finished, his body was translated into the sanctuary.

The monks of Lindisfarne, fleeing repeated Viking attacks, abandoned
their holy island in 875, taking with them the relics of St. Oswald and
St. Aidan packed into the coffin containing St. Cuthbert's uncorrupted
body. For over 100 years the monks wandered, settling here and there,
and founding churches. In 995, fearing another attack from Danish
raiders, the monks again fled with their precious relics. According to
legend, when the monks approached the town of Durham the coffin began to
grow heavy and one of the monks had a dream in which Cuthbert said his
body would finally rest at 'Dunholme'. None of the monks knew of such a
place but, inquiring of local villagers, overheard two women speaking
about a lost cow which was said to have strayed into 'the Dunholme'.
Investigated by the monks, this turned out to be a wooded promontory in
a loop above the River Wear, which is where Durham cathedral now stands.

The monks of Glastonbury claimed that they held the bones of St. Aidan
of Lindisfarne (in Northumberland) as early as the 11th century. We know
that this was not his whole body, as it was accepted that half of it lay
at Iona in Scotland, and some relics were also claimed by Durham
Cathedral. As only a partial saint and the earliest recorded, it seems
likely that Aidan may have been the only Northern relic brought south to
Glastonbury by Tyccea, though not apparently because of the Viking

Saint Bede highly praises the Irish Aidan who did so much to bring the
Gospel to his Anglo-Saxon brothers. "He neither sought nor loved
anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the
poor whatever was given him by kings or rich men of the world. He
traversed both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless
compelled by some urgent necessity. Wherever on his way he saw any,
either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery
of the faith; or if they were believers, he sought to strengthen them in
their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good

He wrote that Saint Aidan "was a man of remarkable gentleness, goodness,
and moderation, zealous for God; but not fully according to knowledge. .
. . " By which Bede means that he followed and taught the liturgical
and disciplinary customs of the
Celtic Christians, which differed from those of Continental
Christianity. Montague notes that one effort of Anglo-Saxon education
being conducted by Irish monks was that English writing was
distinguished by its Irish orthography. Aidan brought to Ireland the
custom of Wednesday and Friday fasts [see the Didache] (Attwater,
Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Montague, Walsh).

In art, Saint Aidan is portrayed as a bishop with the monastery of
Lindisfarne in his hand and a stag at his feet (because of the legend
that his prayer rendered invisible a deer pursued by hunters). He might
also be portrayed (1) holding a light torch;
(2) giving a horse to a poor man; (3) calming a storm; or (4)
extinguishing a fire by his prayers (Roeder), He is especially
venerated at Glastonbury, Lindisfarne, and Whitby (Roeder).

"The Irish Bishops of Lindisfarne"

The life of St Aidan features in this book available at the Internet
The Bishops of Lindisfarne, Hexham, Chester-le-Street, and Durham A.D.
635-1020 - Being an Introduction to the Ecclesiastical History of

Liturgical Commemoration of Our Father among the
Saints Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Enlightener of Northumbria

Icons of St. Aidan:

Troparion of St Aidan tone 5
O holy Bishop Aidan,/ Apostle of the North and light of the Celtic
Church,/ glorious in humility,/ noble in poverty,/ zealous monk and
loving missionary,/ intercede for us sinners/ that Christ our God may
have mercy on our souls.

St. Cuthburga, Queen and Abbess of Wimborne, England

St. Eanswitha (Eanswyth), Abbess of Folkestone, Kent, England
Grand-daughter of King Saint Aethelbert

Liturgical Commemoration of Our Venerable Mother Eanswythe, Abbess of
Folkestone & Wonderworker of Kent

St. Columban of Ireland, Abbot and Founder of
Luxeuil Abbey in France
Feast of the Translation of his holy Relics

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