Saint of the Day – 10 October – St Paulinus of York (c 584-644) First Bishop of York, Missionary. Born in c 584 in Rome, Italy and died on 10 October 644 at Rochester, Kent, England of natural causes. Patronage – Rochester, England and Rochester Diocese. Paulinus was a member of the Gregorian mission sent in 601 by Pope Gregory I to Christianise the Anglo-Saxons from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, Paulinus arrived in England by 604 with the second missionary group.
Paulinus, the first Christian Missionary to the kingdom of Northumbria, was a “tall man with a slight stoop, who had black hair, a thin face and a narrow, aquiline nose, his presence being venerable and awe-inspiring.”
He left Italy in 601, at the bidding of Pope Gregory the Great, to assist St Augustine of Canterbury, in his work of conversion. With Paulinus, came Mellitus, Justus, and Rufinianus, and they brought, to Augustine, a letter from Gregory, in which the Pope expressed a desire that York should become a metropolitical see with twelve suffiragans. For many years, Paulinus assisted Augustine and Justus in the south of England. However, in 625, King Edwin of Northumbria, still a pagan, married the Christian Aethelburga, daughter of King Aethelbert of Kent who had received St Augustine. Paulinus escorted her to her husband’s kingdom, having been Consecrated – on 21st July 625 – by Archbishop Justus as Bishop of the Northumbrians.
The story of Paulinus’ labours in the north and the manner in which he succeeded in effecting the conversion of Edwin and of his principal chiefs is well-known. The saint held a famous conference with the highest Northumbrian nobles, probably at a Royal Palace in Londesborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Here he explained to them the advantages of the Christian religion, illustrating his arguments thus:
“This is how the present life of man on Earth, King, appears to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us. You are sitting feasting with your ealdormen and thegns in winter time. The fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all outside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging – and a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall. It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other. For the few moments it is inside, the storm and wintry tempest cannot touch it, but after the briefest moment of calm, it flits from your sight, out of the wintry storm and into it again. So this life of man appears but for a moment. What follows or, indeed, what went before, we know not at all.”
Having been offered hope of life after death, the nobles were won over. Even the King’s pagan high priest, Coifi – probably motivated by hopes of his own survival – rode out to the great pagan temple at Goodmanham, a very short distance from Londesborough, threw a spear into it and began it’s demolition. The present Parish Church there may possibly occupy the site. Shortly after this conference, the Baptism of Edwin took place, at York, on Easter Day (12th April) 627. Two of his children and many other persons of noble birth, were Baptised at the same time. Round the Baptistery, which had been hastily built, the King caused a small stone Church to be constructed. It stood somewhere in the vicinity of the present Minster, under which, it’s cemetery has been excavated.
The kingdom of Edwin embraced the whole country from the Humber to the Clyde and the Forth and there are traces of Paulinus and his labours in many parts of this vast district. “Paulin’s Carr” and the “Cross of Paulinus,” in the adjoining Parish of Easingwold, are both mentioned in an Inquisition of the reign of King Edward I.
In 633, King Edwin fell in the Battle of Hatfield Chase (Nottinghamshire). It was unsafe for the Queen to remain in Northumbria and Paulinus returned with her and her children to Kent. International communications were, not surprisingly, poor in those days and, unaware of this new state of affairs, Pope Honorius I wrote to King Edwin and Archbishop Honorius of Canterbury in June the following year, sending the Pallium for, now exiled, Paulinus.
Bishop Romanus of Rochester having died, Paulinus was immediately given his see, which he presided over until his death on 10 October 644. He was buried in the chapter-house of the Cathedral there but Archbishop Lanfranc translated his relics and placed them in a beautiful silver shrine. The name of Paulinus was inserted in the Calendar and he became the great Patron Saint of Rochester.
PRAYER: Lord, through St Paulinus, Your Bishop, You brought those who had no faith out of darkness into the light of truth. By his intercession, keep us strong in our faith and steadfast in the hope of the Gospel he preached. Amen