Thursday, March 20, 2008

St Cuthbert's Day

Although today is Maundy Thursday, I cannot pass by St Cuddy.

Cuthbert was the most popular saint of the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon Church. He was born about 625.

The Venerable Bede, who wrote a life of Cuthbert, tells us that in his youth, while tending sheep one night, and praying, "as was his wont," he saw a stream of light break through the darkness, and in its midst, "a company of the heavenly host descended to the earth, and having received among them a spirit of surpassing brightness, returned without delay to their heavenly home." Learning the next day that Aidan of Lindisfarne had died at that very time, Cuthbert "determined forthwith to enter a monastery."

Trained in the austere traditions of Celtic monasticism, Cuthbert was Prior of Melrose Abbey from 651 to 664, and then of Lindisfarne for twelve years. Bede says that he was accustomed to make visitations even to remote villages, to preach to simple folk who, "neglecting the sacrament of their creed, had recourse to idolatrous remedies; as if by charms or amulets, or any other mysteries of the magical art, they were able to avert a stroke inflicted upon them by the Lord...." Bede says that Cuthbert "often remained a week, sometimes two or three, nay, even a whole month, without returning home; but dwelling among the mountains, taught the poor people, both by words of his preaching, and also by his own holy conduct."

Archbishop Theodore recognized Cuthbert's greatness of character and made him Bishop of Hexham in 684, but Cuthbert continued to make his see at Lindisfarne. He returned two years later to his hermitage on the neighboring island of Farne, where he died on March 20, 687.

Cuthbert accepted the decisions of the synod of Whitby in 663 that brought the usages of the English Church into line with Roman practice. He was thus a "healer of the breach" that threatened to divide the Church into Celtic and Roman factions.

At the time of the Viking invasions, the monks of Lindisfarne carefully protected his relics during their wanderings, until, finally, they brought them to Durham, where one may see today the remnants of his shrine and visit his tomb.

[From Lesser Feasts and Fasts]
Almighty God, you called Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of your people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from your ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB


Grandmère Mimi said...

St. Cuthbert sounds like a lovely man. Did he invite you to call him Cuddy, or did you take it upon yourself to use this familiar form?

Paul said...

Cuthbert is very special to me, Grandmère, but it is neither my invention nor his invitation. "Cuddy" is an affectionate local name for him in the Durham region. It sounds like "could he," run together and with a silent "h."

The Farne Islands are now bird refuges and eider ducks, associated with him, are also nicknamed "Cuddy ducks."