King Saint Canute M
Albert of Cashel B (AC)
7th century; feast day formerly January 8. A 12th-century vita describes Saint Albert with the pun: "by race an Angle, in speech an angel' (natione Anglus, conversatione angelus). According to rather unreliable accounts, Saint Albert was an Englishman who labored in or was archbishop of Cashel, Ireland, and afterwards evangelized Bavaria with Saint Erhard. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and died shortly after his return to Ratisbon (Regensburg, Germany). Unfortunately, the diocese of Cashel did not exist then, so even his existence is doubted. He is the patron saint of Cashel, Ireland (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Andrew of Peschiera, OP (AC)
(also known as Blessed Andrew Grego)
Born at Peschiera, Italy; died in Valtellina District (near Swiss border), Italy, 1485; cultus confirmed 1820.
As a child, Andrew Grego lived on the southern shore of Lake Garda, in northern Italy. His training for a life of heroic sanctity began early, with voluntary penances and unquestioning obedience to his father. Andrew's first desire was to be a hermit, an ambition that was met with ridicule from his brothers. Failing to realize this hope, he made for himself a severe schedule of prayer and penance, and, in his own house, lived the life of one wholly given to God.
After the death of his father, it became increasingly difficult to carry out his plan, so he resolved to enter the cloister. Although his brothers had persecuted him without mercy, he knelt and humbly begged their prayers and forgiveness for having annoyed them. Then he gave them the only possession he had, a walking-stick. This stick, thrown carelessly in a corner by the brothers, was forgotten until, long afterwards, it bloomed like the legendary rod of Saint Joseph in token of Andrew's holiness.
The 15-year old received the Dominican habit at Brescia and then was sent to San Marco in Florence. This convent was then at its peak of glory, stamped with the saintly personalities of Saint Antoninus and the Blesseds of Lawrence of Riprafratta, Constantius, and Antony della Chiesa. Andrew's soul caught the fire of their apostolic zeal, and set forth on his mission in the mountains of northern Italy.
Heresy and poverty had combined to draw almost this entire region from the Church. It was a country of great physical difficulties, and, in his travels in the Alps, he risked death from snowstorms and avalanches as often as from the daggers of the heretics. Nevertheless, he travelled tirelessly, preaching, teaching, and building--for his entire lifetime (45 years).
Churches, hospitals, schools, and orphanages were built under Andrew's direction. He would retire from time to time to these convents for periods of prayer and spiritual refreshment, so that he could return with renewed courage and zeal to the difficult apostolate. He was known as "the Apostle of the Valtelline," because of the district he evangelized.
Blessed Andrew performed many miracles. Probably his greatest miracle was his preaching, which produced such fruits in the face of great obstacles. At one time, when he was preaching to the people, the heretics presented him with a book in which they had written down their beliefs. He told them to open the book and see for themselves what their teachings amounted to. They did so, and a large viper emerged from the book.
Blessed Andrew closed a holy life by an equally holy death and was buried in Morbegno. He had labored so long among the poor and the neglected that his place in their hearts was secured. Because of the miracles worked at his tomb, and the persistent devotion of the people, his relics were twice transferred to more suitable tombs (Attwater2, Benedictines, Dorcy).
Blessed Antony Fatati B (AC)
Born at Ancona, Italy, c. 1410; died January 9, 1484; cultus approved by Pius VI. Antony held successively the office of archpriest of Ancona, vicar-general of Siena, canon of the Vatican in Rome, bishop of Teramo, and bishop of Ancona. His feast is celebrated in all these places (Benedictines).
Arcontius of Viviers BM (AC)
8th or 9th century; feast day was either February 5 and/or September 5. Bishop Arcontius of Viviers was killed by a mob for having upheld the rights of his church (Benedictines).
Arsenius of Corfu B (AC)
Born in Constantinople; died 959 (800?). Saint Arsenius was a Jewish convert who became the first bishop of the church of Corfu, where he is now venerated as the principal patron (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Bassian of Lodi B (RM)
Born in Sicily; died 413. Saint Bassian, bishop of Lodi in Lombardy (now Italy), was held in high esteem by his friend Saint Ambrose, with whom he attended the council of Aquileia (381) and whom he assisted at his death (390) (Benedictines).
Blessed Beatrix of Lens, OSB Cist., Nun (AC)
Born in Lens (diocese of Arras); died after 1216. Beatrix founded the Cistercian monastery of Epinklieu near Mons, and became a nun there (Benedictines).
Blessed Bernard of Corleone, OFM Cap. (AC)
(also known as Blessed Philip Latini)
Born in Corleone, Sicily, 1605; died in Palermo, 1667; beatified in 1768. A shoemaker by trade, Philip Latini was considered "the best swordsman of Sicily." After mortally wounding another man, he fled from the police and took sanctuary in the church of the Capuchin friars at Palermo, Sicily. There he experienced a conversion. He joined them as a lay-brother in 1632 and henceforth became "a prodigy of austerity" until his death. He had the unusual gift of healing animals by prayer (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blaithmaic of Iona M (AC)
(also known as Blaithmac, Blathmac, Blaithmale)
Died c. 823; feast day formerly on January 15. Blaithmaic was an Irish abbot, who, desiring martyrdom, crossed over to England, which was then prey to the heathen Danes.
His contemporary, Walafrid Strabo (died 849), the German Benedictine of Reichenau, narrates his life in a 180-line metrical poem, which has been reprinted in Migne's Patrologia and Messingham's Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum. According to this tradition, Blaithmac was heir to an Irish throne, but entered a monastery instead and later became its abbot. Desiring the crown of martyrs, he obtained permission to live among his brethren at Iona.
During the absence of its abbot Dermait, Blaithmac foretold the Viking raid on Iona and buried the shrine containing the relics of Saint Columba. After carefully replacing the sod above the burial site, Blaithmac then gave each of the monks the choice of fleeing or staying.
As he was saying Mass the next morning, the invaders rushed in. The whole community was slaughtered, until only Blaithmaic, the temporary abbot, was left. He was promised that his life would be spared if he gave them the relics. He refused and was hacked to pieces by the Danes on the altar steps of the abbey church. When his brethren returned, they buried him where he had fallen. The relics were later reposed at Dunkeld in 849 (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Montague, Moran, O'Hanlon, Skene 2).
Branwallader B (AC)
(also known as Branwalader, Branwalator, Brelade, Breward)
6th century (?); in Cornwall he has feast days on February 9 and June 6; January 19 may be the day of the translation of his relics. Saint Branwallader was a Celtic or Welsh monk, who is said to have been a bishop in Jersey. As with many of the early saints of this part of the world, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. However, it is believed that Branwallader worked with Saint Samson in Cornwall and the Channel Islands, where he is remembered at Jersey in Saint Brelade. He may also have travelled with Samson to Brittany in northern France. In the Exeter martyrology, Branwallader is described a the son of the Cornish king, Kenen.
King Athelstan, who founded Milton Abbey in Dorset, obtained some of the saint's relics (an arm or head) from Breton clerics fleeing Northmen and translated them to Milton Abbey in 935. William Worcestre claimed that the body itself was at Branston, Devon, and Leland referred to a chapel of Saint Breward near Seaton.
The cultus of Saint Branwallader has been strong at least from the 10th century, when his name could be found in litanies. His feast was kept at Winchester, Exeter, and Cornwall. In Brittany, he has sometimes been confused with Saint Brendan and Saint Brannock (Benedictines, Farmer).
Canute IV of Denmark, King M (RM)
(also known as Cnut, Knud, Knute)
Born c. 1040; died at Odense in July 10, 1086. Saint Canute, the illegitimate son of King Sweyn (Swein) III Estrithson of Denmark and nephew of the King Canute who had reigned over England (1016- 1035), attempted unsuccessfully to claim the English crown in 1075, when three earls who rebelled against William the Conqueror asked for his help. His fleet of 200 ships achieved only a raid on York before the rebellion was suppressed. Nevertheless, he became king of Denmark as Canute IV, succeeding his brother Harald the Slothful, in 1081 after a reign of two years.
By this time, Denmark itself had been largely evangelized by the English and was nominally a Christian kingdom. Canute began his reign with a successful war against the troublesome, barbarous enemies of the state, and by planting the faith in conquered territories. Amid the glory of his victories he humbly prostrated himself at the foot of the crucifix, laying there his diadem, and offering himself and his kingdom to the King of kings. After providing for the peace and safety of his country, Canute married Adela (Eltha or Alice), sister (or daughter by some accounts) of Count Roberts II of Flanders, by whom he had a son, Saint Charles the Good.
He was a competent ruler, who cleared the seas of pirates and enacted laws for the strict administration of justice, which entailed restraining the power of the jarls (earls). He was a zealous Christian, who is said to have chastised his body with fasting, discipline, and haircloths, and to have prayed assiduously. He also used his temporal power to spread the Gospel. Canute aided the missionaries in order to convert his people and those of Livonia, Samogitia, and Courland, heightened the authority of the clergy (making some of them powerful temporal lords), imposed the payment of tithes for the upkeep, combatted heathen customs, and built many churches, including that of Lund. He gave the valuable crown that he wore to the church of Roschild in his capital (Zealand), where the kings of Denmark are still buried.
In 1085, Canute prepared to invade England when he reasserted his claim to that crown against the Norman conquerors. He began to assemble a huge fleet with his allies of Norway and Flanders. The threat was so serious that William the Conqueror imported numerous mercenaries, removed supplies from the coastal towns, and instituted the Doomsday Survey. In the end the threat amounted to nothing.
The heavy taxes Canute had hastily introduced for the tithe and for war, and his disputes with the jarls led to a rebellion headed by his brother Olaf, and forced Canute to abandon the invasion and flee to the island of Funen (Fionia). He was tracked down by the insurgents and he, his brother Benedict, and 17 followers were slain on July 19 as he knelt in front of the altar of Saint Alban's Church in Odense, Schleswig, where he had taken refuge.
Canute's supporters viewed his death as a martyrdom. The English monks of Odense accepted him as a saint, buried him under their altar, and promoted his cultus. The English monk Aelnoth of Canterbury, Canute's biographer, reported many miracles that occurred at Canute's tomb. These, together with the fact that he was kneeling at the altar of the church after confession and Holy Communion when he was slain, caused Pope Paschal II to authorize his cult at the request of King Eric III of Denmark in 1101.
His claim to martyrdom is as dubious as that of Saints Oswin and Ethelbert; however, the fact that he was killed while preparing to invade England and it was English monks who promoted his cause leads one to think that Canute had a genuine claim to sanctity. Unfortunately, there is little evidence of that sanctity in his biographies (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Butler, Coulson, Delaney, Farmer, Husenbeth, Schamoni).
In art Saint Canute is a Nordic king with royal insignia, dagger, lance or arrow. He is often barefoot with his hair in a fillet. Sometimes he is shown with Saint Charles Borromeo (Roeder). He is the patron saint of Denmark (Farmer).
Catellus of Castellamare B (AC)
9th century. Saint Catellus, bishop of Castellamare, south of Naples, was an intimate friend of Saint Antoninus, OSB. He is venerated as the principal saint of the city and diocese of Castellamare (Benedictines).
Contestus of Bayeux B (AC)
Died c. 510. Saint Contestus was bishop of Bayeux in Normandy from 480 until his death (Benedictines).
Fillan, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Foelan, Foellan, Foilan, Foillan, Fulan)
Early 8th century; in Ireland his feast is celebrated on January 9.
The Irish Fillan, son of Feriach, grandson of King Ceallach of Leinster, received the monastic habit in the abbey of Saint Fintan Munnu. Then he accompanied his mother, Saint Kentigerna, and his uncle, Saint Comgan, to Scotland, where he became a missionary monk. He was perhaps a monk at Taghmon in Wexford and a hermit at Pittenweem, Fife, before being chosen as abbot of the nearby monastery, which he governed for some years. He retired to Glendochart in Perthshire, where he lived a solitary life and built a church. There he died and was buried at the place now called Strathfillan in his honor. Until the early 19th century, the mentally ill were dipped into the pool here and then left all night, tied up, in a corner of Fillan's ruined chapel. If they were found loose the next morning, they were considered cured.
Further north, in Ross-shire, there are dedications to his memory and that of his uncle (Kilkoan and Killellan). Both Irish and Scottish martyrologies recorded his sanctity, and the Aberdeen Breviary relates some extravagant miracles performed by him.
History also records that Robert the Bruce put his hopes of victory at Bannockburn into the hands of Saint Fillan. It is reported that he brought an arm relic of the saint into battle having passed most of the night praying for his intercession. Not surprisingly, the Scottish victory at Bannockburn revived and perpetuated his cultus, and his feast is still kept in the diocese of Dunkeld. The bell and staff of Saint Fillan still exist. (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Farmer, Gill, Montague).
Firminus of Gabales B (AC)
Date unknown. Third bishop of Gabales (Gévaudan), Mende, France (Benedictines).
Germanicus of Smyrna M (RM)
Died 156. Germanicus was a mere youth when he was thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheater at Smyrna during the public games. Rather than cowering in fear or running, he encouraged the lions to attack him--the soonerto escape the company of the wicked men among whom he lived. The letter describing his martyrdom--together with that of Saint Polycarp--is one of the most authentic documents of early ecclesiastical history (Attwater2, Coulson, Benedictines). Saint Germanicus is pictured as a young man in the amphitheater with a lion near him (Roeder).
Henry of Uppsala BM (RM)
(also known as Henry of Finland)
Born in England; died in Finland c. 1156; canonized in 1158; feast of the translation of his relics to Abo, June 18. Saint Henry, an Englishman living in Rome, became an apostle to Scandinavia. He accompanied the papal legate, Nicholas Cardinal Breakspear (later Pope Adrian IV), to Scandinavia in 1151 and was consecrated bishop of Uppsala, Sweden, the following year by the cardinal at the council of Linköping.
Henry was with King Saint Eric of Sweden during the latter's crusade into Finland, in 1154, to punish to Finnish pirates who repeatedly invaded Sweden. Eric offered peace and the Christian faith, both of which were refused by the Finns. In the ensuing battle, Eric prevailed. Thereafter, Henry baptized the defeated Finns in the spring of Kuppis near Abo.
When Eric returned home, Henry remained in Turku to continue his efforts at evangelization. Unfortunately, he was less tactful than zealous, and the warlike circumstances under which he arrived in Finland were not a good recommendation for Christianity. Nevertheless, Henry built a church at Nousis and made it his headquarters. After a few years, Henry was martyred on Kirkkosaari in Lake Kjulo with an axe by an angry convert named Lalli, upon whom Henry had imposed a heavy penance, including excommunication, for the murder of a Swedish soldier. Soon after his burial in Nousis, miracles began to occur. The union of Finland and Sweden wrought by Henry and Eric lasted much longer than they did--until the 14th century.
On June 18, 1300, Henry's relics were translated to Abo cathedral, and, in 1370, a magnificent Flemish sepulchral brass was placed on his original tomb. This brass, which depicts Henry's life, death, and miracles, still exists. Henry's cultus spread to Sweden, where Uppsala cathedral has a cycle of murals devoted to him. An English chapel in the Carmelite church in Great Yarmouth is also dedicated to him. The Russians took the relics from Abo in 1720 (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill).
In Sweden, Saint Henry is generally portrayed in art as a bishop being murdered at Mass together with young King Eric, patron saint of Sweden (Roeder). In medieval churches in Finland, Henry is depicted trampling on Lalli--Finland's primary contribution to iconography. He is also included in Niccolo Circignani's series of paintings of English martyrs completed in 1582 for the English College in Rome. Henry is considered the patron saint of Finland and is especially invoked by the local seal-fishermen during storms (Farmer).
Lomer of Corbion, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Launomarus, Laudomarus)
Died 593. Saint Lomer was a shepherd boy near Chartres, France, then a priest, who became a hermit. Disciples soon joined him and so he founded the monastery of Corbion near Chartres. He lived to be over 100 (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Marguerite Bourgeoys, Foundress (RM)
Born at Troyes (Aube), France, in 1620; died in Québec, Montréal, Canada, January 12, 1700; beatified in 1950; canonized in 1982.
Saint Marguerite was the daughter of a prolific candle-maker. Like several saints before her, she was frustrated by those who could not see her vocation. She first tried to enter the Carmelites and Poor Clares. Both refused her entry, so she joined an uncloistered community of active sisters. This was not satisfactory either. God was calling her but the message was dim for she was to be the founder of a new order.
In 1652, the governor of Montréal visited Troyes and recruited Marguerite to tutor the children of the French garrison at Ville-Marie (now Montréal), where she arrived the following year. There she busied herself teaching children, caring for the sick in the hospital, and helping in other ways in the small outpost. In 1658, she was appointed the headmistress of the first school established at Montréal. Realizing that more teachers would be needed, Marguerite returned to France and recruited four helpers. She repeated the process in 1670-72. At that time she decided to found a congregation, which was given canonical approval by the bishop of Québec in 1676 and by the Vatican in 1688; however, the first 24 did not make their professions as Sisters of Notre Dame until 1698--after Marguerite had resigned as superior.
Having obtained the royal patent from King Louis XIV to teach throughout Canada, the congregation's apostolate expanded in spite of the difficulties the sisters encountered, such as fires and massacres by the neighboring Iroquois. They established schools for Indian children. New schools for the French were established at Québec and Trois Rivières. With indomitable courage they continued their mission through the hardships entailed by pioneering, of poverty, and even misunderstandings with the bishops. In 1889, the congregation received papal approval to spread into the United States. The 200 convents of Marguerite's congregation today are evidence for her wisdom and sheer goodness described by her contemporaries (Attwater2, Benedictines, Farmer).
Marius (Maris), Martha, Abachum & Audifax MM (RM)
Died c. 270. A rich Persian family--husband, wife, and two children--who were converted to the faith and distributed their possessions to the poor. They decided to visit Rome to venerate the tombs of the martyrs even though the Emperor Claudius was persecuting Christians. Claudius ordered his legions to gather Christians in the amphitheater, where they were killed and their bodies burned. The Persian family gathered together the ashes and buried them.
For this, the governor Marcian apprehended and tortured the whole family before putting them to death. The three men were beheaded and Martha was drowned 13 miles from Rome at a place now called Santa Ninfa (Nympha). Reverent Christians honored the bodies of these martyrs with respect: They were buried on the Via Cornelia. Thirteen centuries later (1590) their bones were discovered and now lie honored in churches as far apart as Rome, Cremona, and Seligenstaedt in Germany (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Coulson, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
In art this group generally is represented as a Persian noble family visiting prisoners. Sometimes they may be shown (1) burying Christian martyrs in Rome or (2) being executed with an axe (Roeder).
Nathalan of Aberdeen B (AC)
Born near Aberdeen (Tullicht?), Scotland; died 678; cultus confirmed for the diocese of Aberdeen in 1898; Farmer places his feast on January 8.
Saint Nathalan's name is included in ancient Irish martyrologies, such as that of Aengus. The Aberdeen breviary records that Nathalan was a nobleman, who possessed a large estate which he gave to the poor in order to become an anchorite. Nathalan is especially praised for having earned his living by farming, "which approaches nearest to divine contemplation." He fed his neighbors from his produce during times of famine, and found that farming served him as a type of penance.
During his pilgrimage to Rome, Nathalan was consecrated bishop by the pope, because of his holiness and proficiency in profane and sacred learning. He took up residence at Tullicht (now in the diocese of Aberdeen), where he built a church, but he continued to use all his revenues for the relief of the poor as he had previously. He continued to earn his livelihood by the work of his hands, while living austerely, and preaching the Gospel. He is also credited with founding the churches at Bothelim and Colle.
His story has elements of folklore, which resembles that of several other saints from this part of the world--but with a difference. A sudden storm interfered with Nathalan's harvest, and he protested against God. When he realized what he had done, he locked his hand and leg together in irons and tossed away the key in the River Dee. He vowed that his arm would never be free until he had made a pilgrimage to Rome. Upon his arrival in the Eternal City, he met a boy who offered him a fish for sale. He bought it and recovered the key from the belly of the fish. It is said that when the pope heard of this miracle, he determined to make him a bishop.
Many miracles were wrought at his tomb in Tullicht, where his relics were preserved until the Reformation. It should be noted that the see of Aberdeen had not yet been regularly established; it was first erected at Murthlac by Saint Bean at the beginning of the 11th century, and transferred to Aberdeen by its fourth bishop, Nectan (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Farmer, Husenbeth).
Paul, Gerontius, Januarius, & Comps. MM (RM)
2nd century. SS. Paul, Gerontius, Januarius, Saturninus, Successus, Julius, Catus, Pia, and Germana were martyred in Numidia. Nothing else is known (Benedictines).
Pontian of Spoleto M (RM)
Died 169. An Italian martyr who suffered at Spoleto under Marcus Aurelius. His Acts are only substantially accurate (Benedictines).
Remigius of Rouen B (AC)
Died c. 772. Saint Remigius, son of Charles Martel, was archbishop of Rouen from 755 until his death. He worked successfully for the introduction of the Roman rite and chant into Gaul (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Thomas of Cori, OFM (AC)
Born in Cori, diocese of Velletri, Italy, in 1655; died 1729; beatified in 1785. Blessed Thomas began life as a shepherd in the Roman Campagna then became an Observant Franciscan in 1675. After his ordination to the priesthood, he was stationed at Civitella and spent the remainder of his life preachinpg and ministering in the mountain district around Subiaco (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Wulfstan of Worcester, OSB B (AC)
(also known as Wulstan, Ulfstan)
Born at Long Itchington (Icentum), Warwickshire, England, c. 1008; died in Worcester, England, 1095; canonized in 1203 by Pope Innocent III; feast of his translation June 7.
In his youth, Wulfstan is said to have perceived himself so besieged by lust upon seeing a woman dance that he threw himself into a thicket and beseeched God with contrition. From that time he was gifted with constant watchfulness over his senses, which prevented him from being similarly tempted thereafter.
Wulstan of Worcester, last of the Anglo-Saxon bishops, was educated at the monastic schools of Evesham and Peterborough, where he excelled in piety and sports. His parents, Athelstan and Wulfgeva, are said to have taken monastic habits at Worcester by mutual consent. Wulfstan was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Brihtheah of Worcester, in whose household he lived prior to his ordination. He was offered a richly endowed parish, but refused it. He served for a time as vicar of a parish near Chipping Sodbury.
He is said to have practiced greater austerities in the world than most monks in their monasteries. At first he permitted meat in his diet. But when he was one day distracted from saying Mass by the smell of roasting meat in the kitchen, he forsook eating any flesh in the future. Soon thereafter he entered the monastery of Worcester cathedral, where he was remarkable for the innocence and sanctity of his life. Wulfstan served the community as schoolmaster, and then, in turn, held the offices of precentor, sacristan, and prior of this small community of 12 monks. As precentor and sacristan he devoted himself totally to prayer and watched whole nights in the church.
As prior of the house, he restored its fortunes, religious and temporal. He regained lands which had been alienated, reformed its finances, and improved the monastic observance. He was not renowned as a scholar and wrote no theology, but was a great evangelist who drew crowds and moved them to tears by his preaching. He also had great pastoral qualities, which so impressed his superiors that when the bishopric of Worcester fell vacant in 1062 (because of Aldred's promotion to the diocese of York), he was nominated by the papal legates and approved by King Saint Edward and his council.
With characteristic humility, Wulfstan initially shrank from such high preferment, but finally accepted it under obedience. Upon his consecration by Aldred of York just four years before the Normans conquered England, he rejoiced in the fuller opportunities it offered for the exercise of his pastoral gifts. His unique talents allowed him effectively to combine governance of the monastery and his diocese. The monk Coleman, Wulfstan's biographer, described the bishop as "of middle height . . . always in good health . . . neither lavish nor niggardly in the choice of clothes and in his general standard of living."
Beloved by all, in the midst of a busy life he preserved the simple habits of a monk and the zeal of an evangelist, nor were any who sought his help turned from his door. "Troubled by people!" he exclaimed to those who remonstrated with him because he was always so accessible. "Why, that is what I am here for." Yet for all his humility he found it difficult to suffer fools gladly, and on one occasion when pestered by a titled woman who wasted his time with her pious chatter, he rounded on her and boxed her ears. Not even the saints are perfect.
He was an able administrator and a great church builder. He encouraged the building of churches on his own manors and on those of lay lords, and also rebuilt part of Worcester Cathedral (c. 1086). He said, "The men of old, if they had not stately buildings were themselves a sacrifice to God, whereas we pile up stones, and neglect souls." To rectify this, his days were primarily occupied in extensive visitation throughout his wide diocese and in crowded confirmation services which would last throughout the whole of a summer's day. He was the first English bishop to regularly visit all portions of his diocese, which he did in the company of two clerks--one carrying alms and the other the oil of confirmation.
As he travelled from place to place, he recited his psalter, and he never passed a church or chapel without stopping to pour out his soul before the altar with tears, which seemed to be always ready in his eyes for prayer. He has been called the Bishop of the Market-Place because of his plain and homely speech. He loved nothing better than to sit in the porches of the churches he visited and to talk kindly to the village people and gather the children round him.
Always outspoken, he rebuked the headstrong King Harold, who once walked 30 miles out of his way to make confession and receive Wulfstan's blessing. Wulfstan also withstood Blessed Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who at first tried to remove him.
In 1066, King Harold sent Wulfstan as his representative to Northumbria to ensure their loyal support. Wulfstan, obviously, was unsuccessful, but not blameworthy. After the Battle of Hastings, which he recognized as decisive, he was one of the first bishops to acknowledge William the Conqueror.
As the Normans spread across the country, appropriating property, despising the Anglo-Saxons as inferior, and taking over bishoprics and abbeys, Wulfstan preserved a rugged independence. He called the Normans 'the Scourge of God' and refused to surrender his cathedral. The Normans downplayed the cults of the Saxon saints. Wulfstan, therefore, in order to prevent the faith and culture of the poor from being eroded, showed heightened devotion to indigenous saints, such as King Saint Oswald, Venerable Saint Bede (to whom he dedicated a church), Dunstan, and a predecessor in the see of Worcester, Bishop Saint Oswald, whose abstinence and generosity to the poor Wulfstan imitated and surpassed.
A man of simplicity, he was accused of being unfit to be a bishop at the synod at Westminster but eventually, though speaking no French, he convinced all of his ability, and succeeded in being left in possession. Apparently, he convinced them by a miracle. When ordered to give up his crozier, he sunk it into the stone tomb of King Edward, who had insisted upon his consecration, and no one could remove it except Wulfstan.
He was one of the few Anglo-Saxon bishops allowed to retain his see, perhaps because he tried to alleviate public unrest over the oppression of the Normans. He gained the respect of William the Conqueror and helped him against the barons during an uprising in 1074. (Later, in 1088, he supported William II against the barons and Welsh, providing for the defense of Worcester Castle.) They considered him simple and old-fashioned, but he was more than a match for them. Eventually, he was so trusted that Lanfranc commissioned him to make the visitation of the diocese of Chester as his deputy.
Among his greatest achievements was his successful crusade against the Irish slave trade, the profits from which helped to swell the royal exchequer. Slaves in large numbers were brought from Ireland and sold in Bristol and elsewhere. Stirred by its inhumanity and encouraged by Lanfranc, who also worked toward this end, he opposed it on Christian grounds and, after bold and fierce denunciation, secured its abolition. For months on end he preached at the slave market in Bristol against the inhumanity of selling the poor into slavery to repay a debt. He was the first Englishman who helped to free the slave.
Wulfstan supported Lanfranc's policy of reform. Worcester became a suffragan see to Canterbury, ending its earlier ambivalent relation to York (often the bishop of York retained the see of Worcester). He also zealously enforced the discipline of priestly celibacy (a thankless task in those days), refounded the monastery at Westbury-on-Trym, and insisted upon the use of stone, not wood, for altars. He was scandalized to learn that priests required a fee to baptize children, and stopped this simonous practice.
Although Wulfstan was not an especially educated man himself, he encouraged learning among his clergy. (It should be noted, however, that a late legend implying that he was poorly educated is false. Contemporary evidence suggests he had an average education for an Anglo-Saxon bishop of his day.) Wulfstan sent his favorite disciple to Canterbury for further education and contact between the two communities was fostered by Eadmer. It is interesting to note that in his cathedral he would comment in English on the Latin reading. During his episcopate, Worcester became one of the most important centers of Old English literature and culture.
He showed the most tender care for penitents, and often wept over them while they confessed their sins to him. On Holy Thursday he would distribute food and clothing to the poor, hear public confessions, and then share a meal with the shriven penitents--a sign of the heavenly banquet.
Wulstan had a great love of the poor. Each Sunday in Lent he washed, fed, and clothed them. One year he ordered each estate to contribute clothing for one, shoes for ten, and food for 100. He remained humble and taught others the same. Noblemen sent them their sons to him to be educated and one of their greatest lessons was in humility. He always invited the poor to dine with them and insisted the young men in his charge personally serve the poor at table as honored guests.
Professor David Knowles writes of Saint Wulfstan, "He is, indeed, a most attractive figure, too little known to his countrymen . . .; the last, and certainly one of the greatest, of the [early] bishops of pure English blood and culture."
He lived to the great age of 87 and served as bishop for 32 years, seeking neither rest nor retirement, loved to the end by his own people, and respected by their Norman conquerors. In 1095, Wulfstan appeared in a vision to his friend Robert, bishop of Hereford, bidding him to come to Worcester where he would die. He died while engaged in his daily practice of washing the feet of twelve poor men.
Miracles were reported at his tomb almost at once. From 1200, full and detailed records of the cures were kept in preparation for his canonization, which was granted by Pope Innocent III. William Rufus had Wulfstan's tomb covered with gold and silver. King John asked to be buried near him. His relics were translated in 1198. In 1216, the precious metals of his tomb were removed to pay a levy of 300 marks to Prince Louis of France. His relics were translated to a more magnificent shrine in 1218. At that time, Abbot William of Saint Albans removed one of the saint's ribs, took it back to the abbey, and built a shrine over it. In 1273, Edward I made a thanksgiving at Wulfstan's shrine after the conquest of Wales. Although only one church dedication honors his memory, his feast day is widely celebrated on monastic and diocesan calendars (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth, Knowles, Lamb, Markus, Walsh, White).
In art Saint Wulstan is a bishop fixing his crozier in the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor with the devil behind him. He may also be shown (1) appearing to the king for judgment at the tomb of Saint Edward; (2) offering up Worcester Cathedral at the altar; or (3) in episcopal vestments, a monk presents charter and seal to him (Roeder).
Venerated at Long Itchington, Evesham, and Peterborough. Wulstan is the patron of peasants (Roeder).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.