Posted in INCORRUPTIBLES, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 20 March – Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (c 634-687) “The Wonder-Worker of England”

Saint of the Day – 20 March – Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (c 634-687) “The Wonder-Worker of England,” Bishop of Lindisfarne, Monk, Hermit, Miracle-worker, Born in c 634 spossiblt in Northumbria, England and died on 20 March 687 at Lindesfarne, England of natural causes. Patronages – against plague and epidemics, of boatmen, mariners, sailors, watermen, shepherds, England, the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, England, Diocese of Lancaster, England, of Durham, England, Northumbria, England. Both during his life and after his death he became a popular medieval saint of Northern England, with a cult centred on his tomb at Durham Cathedral.

The Roman Martyrology reads today: “In England, St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, who, from his childhood until his death, was renowned for good works and miracles.

Cuthbert was born in North Northumbria in about the year 634 – the same year in which St Aidan founded the Monastery at Lindisfarne. He came from a notable and wea\lthy English family and like most boys of that class, he was placed with foster-parents for part of his childhood and taught the arts of war. We know nothing of his foster-father but he was very fond of his foster-mother, Kenswith.

It seems, from stories about his childhood, that he was brought up as a Christian. He was credited, for instance, with having saved, by his prayers, some Monks who were being swept out to sea on a raft. There is some evidence that, in his mid-teens, he was involved in at least one battle, which would have been quite normal for a boy of his social background.

St Cuthbert discovers a piece of timber to save drowning Monks, from a 12th-century manuscript of St Bede’s ‘Life of St Cuthbert.’

His life changed when he was about 17 years old. He was looking after some neighbour’s sheep on the hills. (As he was certainly not a shepherd boy it is possible that he was mounting a military guard – a suitable occupation for a young warrior!) Gazing into the night sky he saw a light descend to earth and then return, escorting, he believed, a human soul to Heaven. The date was 31 August 651- the night that St Aidan died! Perhaps Cuthbert had already been considering a possible monastic calling but that was his moment of decision.

He went to the Monastery at Melrose, also founded by St Aidan and asked to be admitted as a Novice. For the next 13 years he was with the Melrose Monks. When Melrose was given land to found a new Monastery at Ripon, North Yorkshire, Cuthbert went with the founding party and was made Administrator. In his late 20s he returned to Melrose and found that his former teacher and friend, the Prior Boisil, was dying of the plague. Cuthbert became Prior (second to the Abbot) at Melrose.

In 664 the Synod of Whitby decided that Northumbria should cease to look to Ireland for its spiritual leadership and turn instead to the continent. The Irish Monks of Lindisfarne, with others, went back to Iona. The Abbot of Melrose subsequently became also Abbot of Lindisfarne and Cuthbert its Prior.

Cuthbert seems to have moved to Lindisfarne at about the age of 30 and lived there for the next 10 years. He ran the Monastery; – he was an active missionary; he was much in demand as a spiritual guide and he was graced with the charism of miraculous curing of the ill. He was an outgoing, cheerful, compassionate person and no doubt became popular. But when he was 40 years old he believed that he was being called to be a hermit and to do the hermit’s job of fighting the spiritual forces of evil in a life of solitude.

After a short trial period on the tiny islet adjoining Lindisfarne, he moved to the more remote and larger island known as ‘Inner Farne’ and built a hermitage where he lived for 10 years. Of course, people did not leave him alone – they went out in their little boats to consult him or ask for healing. However, on many days of the year the seas around the islands are simply too rough to make the crossing and Cuthbert was left in peace.

Cuthbert’s fame for piety, diligence, and obedience quickly grew.and at the age of about 50 he was asked by both Church and King to leave his hermitage and become a Bishop. He reluctantly agreed. For two years he was an active, travelling Bishop as St Aidan had been. He seems to have journeyed extensively. On one occasion he was visiting the Queen in Carlisle (on the other side of the country from Lindisfarne) when he knew by miraculous understanding that her husband, the King, had been slain by the Picts in battle in Scotland.

Feeling the approach of death, he retired back to the hermitage on the Inner Farne where, in the company of Lindisfarne Monks, he died on 20 March 687.

His body was brought back and buried at Lindisfarne. People immediately came to pray at the grave and many miracles occured. To the Monks of Lindisfarne this was a clear sign that Cuthbert was a Saint in Heaven and they, desired to declare to the world the great power of intercession, of their St Cuthbert.
 
They decided to allow 11 years for his body to become a skeleton and then ‘elevate’ his remains on the anniversary of this death (20 March 698). We believe that during these years, the beautiful manuscript known as ‘The Lindisfarne Gospels‘ was made, to be used for the first time at the great ceremony of the Translation of St Cuthbert. The declaration of Cuthbert’s sainthood was to be a day of joy and thanksgiving. It turned out to be also a day of surprise, even shock, for when they opened the coffin ,they found no skeleton but a complete and undecayed body. That was a sign of very great sainthood indeed.
 
So the cult of St Cuthbert began. Pilgrims began to flock to the Shrine. The ordinary life of the Monastery continued for almost another century until, on 8 June 793, the Vikings came. The Monks were totally unprepared; some were killed; some younger ones and boys were taken away to be sold as slaves; gold and silver was taken and the monastery partly burned down. After that, the Monastery lived under threat and it seems that in the 9th century there was a gradual movement of goods and buildings to the nearby mainland. The traditional date for the final abandonment of Lindisfarne is 875.

The body of St.Cuthbert, together with other relics and treasures which had survived the Viking attack, were carried by the Monks and villagers onto the mainland.
 
For over 100 years the community settled at the old Roman Town of Chester-le-Street. It was said that fear of further attack took them inland to Ripon but not for long and on their journey back from there they finally settled at Durham.

After the Norman Conquest (1066) a Benedictine community began to build the great Cathedral at Durham. They proposed to honour the body of St.Cuthbert with a new Shrine immediately east of the new High Altar and in 1104, all was ready for the translation. The Durham Monks opened up the coffin and found, that the St Cuthbert’s body was indeed still incorrupt. Throughout the Middle Ages the coffin was placed in a beautiful Shrine and visited by great numbers of pilgrims. But at the reformation, when the Monastery was dissolved, the Shrine was dismantled and the coffin opened – the body was still complete. It was buried in a plain grave behind the High Altar and the Sacred items buried with St Cuthbert were removed. Below is St Cuthbert’s Gospel of St John, recovered from his coffin; the original tooled red goatskin binding is the earliest surviving Western binding. 

The human remains were then re-interred in the same place and marked by a plain gravestone with the name Cuthbertus. The Site, remaibs the sfocus of many pilgrimages today, including myself and family who have venerated St Cuthbert, a few times, in the Cathedral built to house his Shrine – of course, this is now a protestant church.

The 8th-century historian St Bede, wrote both a verse and a prose life of St Cuthbert around 720. He has been described as the most popular Saint in England prior to the death of Thomas Becket in 1170.
In particular, Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, was inspired and encouraged in his struggle against the Danes by a vision or dream he had of St Cuthbert. Thereafter, the royal house of Wessex, who became the Kings of England, made a point of great devotion to St Cuthbert.

Why is St Cuthbert depicted holding St Oswald’s Head (c 605-642) King of Northumbia and why is it entombed with St Cuthbert?

St Bede tells us that Oswald was born around 605, the son of the King of Northumbria. After his father’s death, Oswald and his brothers were exiled to western Scotland, possibly to Iona, where they were inspired by St Columba’s Monks and were Baptised. In 634 Oswald returned to Northumbria where Cadwalla was massacring the people having killed King Edwin. After setting up a Cross as his standard and leading his men in prayer on the night before battle, Oswald defeated Cadwalla’s much larger army at Heavenfield and reclaimed the throne. The Intercession of St Columba,who died some 35 years earlier, assisted Oswald and his men, for Columba,appeared to Oswald in a vision and promised Heavenly assistance.

Oswald asked the Monks at Iona to send Missionaries to convert and guide his people. The first Monk they sent went back and reported that he could make no progress, due to the ungovernability, obstinacy and barbarous temperament of Oswald’s people, so they sent St Aidan instead. Oswald let Aidan choose where to base his Monastery and his mission. Aidan chose Lindisfarne and Oswald then worked closely with Aidan, travelling the countryside, acting as Aidan’s translator. In St Bede’s words, “while the Bishop, who was not fluent in the English language, preached the gospel, it was most delightful to see the King himself, interpreting the word of God to his ealdormen and thegns; for he, himself, had obtained perfect command of the Irish tongue during his long exile.”

Oswald was killed at Oswestry on 5 August 642, fighting the Mercians led by King Penda. His head was rescued from the battlefield and is buried in the Durham Cathedral, in St Cuthbert’s tomb, which is why you sometimes see pictures or statues of Cuthbert holding Oswald’s head. Soon miracles occurred at the place of his death, as they had at the place where he knelt to pray before battle and he was effectively canonised by the loving devotion of his people.

Author:

Passionate Catholic. Being a Catholic is a way of life - a love affair "Religion must be like the air we breathe..."- St John Bosco Prayer is what the world needs combined with the example of our lives which testify to the Light of Christ. This site, which is now using the Traditional Calendar, will mainly concentrate on Daily Prayers, Novenas and the Memorials and Feast Days of our friends in Heaven, the Saints who went before us and the great blessings the Church provides in our Catholic Monthly Devotions. "For the saints are sent to us by God as so many sermons. We do not use them, it is they who move us and lead us, to where we had not expected to go.” Charles Cardinal Journet (1891-1975) This site adheres to the Catholic Church and all her teachings.

7 thoughts on “Saint of the Day – 20 March – Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (c 634-687) “The Wonder-Worker of England”

  1. I am sorry, I don’t think I mentioned the story. I did get rather bogged down in the details of his life and death. I will have to repair the omission. I believe it is due to his having attempted to repair the political damage caused to King Oswald. But I will check soon. Please come back to St Cuthbert by the end of the week Hughie.

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    1. I will. And by the way, I often go back to your previous posts and re-read or find a Saint, etc. mentioned elsewhere.I think that is a special treat that all your readers should take advantage of even when you are POWER-LESS!

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  2. Oh you are just wonderful dearest! Thank you for prodding more readers to do what you do, Blessings!
    I’ll be back as Arnie would say (to Cuthbert) 😊

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