Saint of the Day – 28 February – Saint Oswald of Worcester (c912-992) Monk, Archbishop of York from 972-992, as well as simultaneously being the Bishop of Worcester and a leading figure in the reform of the Anglo-Saxon Church which took place in the second half of the tenth Century. He died on 29 February in 992 of natural causes, a leap year, therefore, his Feast is celebrated on the 28th. Also known as – Oswald of York.
Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, was of a Danish family and was brought up by his uncle Oda. Under his uncle’s patronage, young Oswald was educated at the Abbey of Fleury-sur-Loire (a great centre of learning, which at the time had the largest library in Europe) and learned there the Benedictine ideals he would later bring to England.
When Oswald returned to England as a Priest in 958/9, he worked with another related Danish patron, Oskytel, who had recently become the Archbishop of York. His aepiscopal labours in York attracted the attention of St Dunstan, then the Bishop of Worcester. This was in 961 when St Dunstan was in the process of moving, to take up his new Episcopal position as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He thus recommended that King Edgar appoint Oswald as the Bishop of Worcester in his place .
Oswald founded a number of Monasteries at Westbury-on-Trym (near Bristol), at Ramsey (in Cambridgeshire) in collaboration with St Ethelwold, the Bishop of Winchester. Oswald reformed another seven Monasteries in the surrounding counties, imposing the Benedictine Rules and order of life and reforming the existing monastic practices. He also succeeded in gradually changing the Cathedral chapter in Worcester from secular Canons to Monks, imposing the Benedictine Rule and order of life.
In 972 Oswald was appointed as the Archbishop of York, at the same time retaining his See at Worcester. As Bishop and simultaneously as Archbishop, Oswald was able to bring the Scholar Abbo of Fleury, to Ramsey Abbey to teach for a number of years.
On 29 February 992 Oswald died, while he was washing the feet of the poor, a practice that had become his daily custom during Lent.
He was buried at Worcester and was quickly regarded as a Saint. Within a few years of his death, a Vita Oswaldi was written by the scholar and scientist Byrhtferth, a Monk belonging to Oswald’s foundation at Ramsey. Oswald was admired as Bishop of Worcester, St Wulfstan, who wept publicly when he found himself tearing down the Church which Oswald had built. Later Saints Oswald and Wulfstan were regarded as the two chief Saints of Worcester and you can see them together, for instance, flanking the tomb of King John before the High Hltar of the Cathedral at York.
He is closely associated with various Monks who became Bishops – particularly St Dunstan (909-988) and St Ethelwold (908-984) – in reforming Monasticism in England, which would last and remain powerful and influential within the life of the Church and of the country, for around 600 years before being disolved by Henry VIII.
NOTE: There are two Saints called Oswald – one was a Martyr King, the other today’s Saint. The Saintly King lived in the 7th Century in Northumbria. St Oswald of Northumbria (604-642) Martyr and King.