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Saints Days

Saints days and information about saints

12 JanAelred of Hexham, Abbot of Rievaulx, 1167

Aelred was a Northumbrian in the early Norman period, born at Hexham in 1109. He joined the Cistercians at Rievaulx in about 1133, but left to serve as abbot of another Cistercian house but returned to Rievaulx both as abbot and to focus on his writing, at the request of Bernard of Clairvaux. He died on this day at Rievaulx in 1167.

13 JanHilary, Bishop of Poitiers, Teacher, 367

Hilary of Poitiers was Bishop of Poitiers and is a Doctor of the Church. He was sometimes referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians" and the "Athanasius of the West." His name comes from the Latin word for happy or cheerful.

The Christians of Poitiers unanimously elected him their bishop. Hilary spent nearly four years in exile in Phrygia. However, he continued to govern his diocese, as well as writing two of the most important of his contributions to dogmatic and polemical theology. He returned to his diocese in 361 and, according to Jerome, died in Poitiers in 367.

17 JanAntony of Egypt, Hermit, Abbot, 356

Antony of Egypt, the son of Christian parents, inherited a large estate, but, having provided for the care of his sister, he gave his land to the tenants who lived on it, and gave his other wealth to the poor, and became a hermit, living alone for twenty years, praying and reading, and doing manual labour.

In 305, he gave up his solitude to become the head of a group of monks, devoting themselves to communal singing and worship, to prayer and study and manual labour under Antony's direction. They were diligent in prayer for their fellow Christians, worked with their hands to earn money that they might distribute it as alms, and preached and gave personal counselling to those who sought them out.

19 JanWulfstan, Bishop of Worcester

St Wulfstan lived c1008 - 1095. He served as Bishop of Worcester and after the Norman Conquest as responsible for the dismantling of the old Saxon cathedral and the building of a new one, of which the crypt is the main part still surviving today. He was at once venerated as a saint by the people of Worcester, though he was not formally canonized until 1203. Alongside the tomb of St Oswald, his shrine was a place of pilgrimage until the Reformation.

25 JanThe Conversion of Paul

26 JanTimothy and Titus, Companions of Paul

Both Timothy and Titus worked ceaselessly in the new Christian churches of the Eastern Mediterranean. Paul passionately believed that the gospel was open to all - both Timothy and Titus, as Gentiles, were used in different ways by Paul to demonstrate the need to spread the new faith to Jew and Gentile alike.

We do not know what happened to Titus, but there is a 4th century tradition that Timothy was beaten to death by a mob in Ephesus when he tried to put a stop to a festival for the pagan God Dionysius. Both Timothy and Titus accompanied Paul on at least one of his missionary journeys and they were clearly valued members of Paul's staff.

14 FebValentine, Martyr at Rome, c269

Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest and bishop in the Great Roman Empire who ministered to Christians who were persecuted there. He was martyred and buried at a Christian cemetery to the north of Rome, on February 14.

1 MarDavid, Bishop of Menevia, Patron of Wales, c601

St David was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids) during the 6th century and the patron saint of Wales.  He lived a simple life and practised asceticism, teaching his followers to refrain from eating meat and drinking beer. Glastonbury Abbey is said to be among the churches David founded.

David was buried at St David's Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.

17 MarPatrick, Bishop, Missionary, Patron of Ireland,..

Saint Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of Ireland. He was buried either in Downpatrick, Co Down, or in Armagh.

19 MarSt Joseph of Nazareth

20 MarCuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 687

Cuthbert was a saint renowned for the depth of his faith, the modesty of his demeanour and the simplicity of his way of life. He lived in the 7th century and grew up in the countryside of the Scottish borders. After some service as a soldier he entered the monastery at Old Melrose. Monastic life was in crisis at that time. Should monks follow the ways of the Christians who had come over from Rome with Augustine in 597 or should they keep to their Celtic traditions? Outwardly, the major difference was the shape of the tonsure, politically it was on how to determine the date of Easter Day, and personally it was between the simplicity of the Celts and the more relaxed ways of the Romans.

The Synod of Whitby 664 adopted the Roman ways. Cuthbert supported this decision for he said, 'have no communion with those who depart from the unity of catholic peace'. He undertook the task of drawing the Celtic Christians into the new ways both as abbot and as bishop. But still the simplicity of Celtic ways attracted him and he yearned for the solitude of the hermit rather than the responsibility of bishop or abbot. So, the last years of his life were spent on Farne Island, just opposite Bamburgh Castle on the Northumbrian coast. There he lived the ascetic life, with little concern for physical comfort and taking much joy in the natural world of God's creation.

When he died in 687 the news was signalled to the community at Lindisfarne by torches waved from the cliff top of the island. By the time of his death, Cuthbert was held in such veneration that he was considered to have miraculous powers of healing. Even beyond the grave he apparently appeared in a vision to some 8th century monks who had lost overboard the precious Lindisfarne Gospels as they were crossing the Irish Sea. The manuscript was then found washed up on the seashore in exactly the place Cuthbert had indicated. Later examination of that manuscript indeed showed stains of sea water! Viking raids made Lindisfarne unsafe for a shrine to Cuthbert.

Eventually, in 1104, his remains reached the new cathedral in Durham where they were an object of popular pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Cuthbert, described by one contemporary as 'afire with heavenly love' and described very simply by the Venerable Bede as 'the child of God', did much to ensure the survival of a united Christian Church in Anglo Saxon England. The simplicity of his own life, and his determination to put the good of the whole Church before his own inclinations, make him a saint to be remembered and an example to us all in our present age of division and argument within our family of God.

Richard Allen

21 MarThomas Cranmer, Abp of Canterbury, Reformation..

23 AprSt George, Martyr, Patron of England c304

25 AprSt Mark the Evangelist

It is to St Mark that we owe the word 'gospel' meaning 'good news' He it was who opened his book with the direct statement, 'The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God'. And the gospel continues in this vein - a direct and carefully constructed account to explain to his readers that the death of Jesus on the Cross was no accident but all part of God's plan. This clear intention may help to explain the curious end to his book (few scholars believe that the last 11 verses are his).

For Mark, perhaps there was no need to write any more because he and his readers knew exactly why the tomb was empty! Jesus, the Son of God had risen! Unfortunately, Mark, or Marcus was one of the most popular names at the time of our Lord. We therefore cannot be certain that the Mark referred to in other parts of the New Testament was the one who wrote the gospel. It could be that it was in Mark's mother's house that the Last Supper was held. It could be that Mark was the young man who fled naked from the scene of Jesus' arrest.

Mark, the writer, was certainly a Hellenic Jew, and it may have been the same gospel-writer who accompanied his cousin Barnabas to Cyprus and who was later with Peter and Paul in Rome. Tradition has it that, after the deaths of these two great apostles, Mark took the good news to Egypt where he became Bishop of Alexandria. Here his shrine became particularly venerated by early Christian pilgrims.

In the ninth century AD his relics were brought to Europe for safekeeping and placed under the high altar in the great St Mark's cathedral in Venice. There is some debate over the dating of his gospel (sometime between AD 64 and AD 75) but it is generally thought to be the first that was written.

Certainly, it is as the Evangelist that he is remembered and revered and, in the many pictures of him, he is nearly always depicted holding a book and a pen.

Richard Allen

29 AprSaint Catherine of Siena

A visit to Tuscany must include a visit to Siena - a wonderful medieval city. Perhaps the real focal point of Siena is the /Piazza del Campo] where every year the famous (or infamous) horserace, the 'Palio' takes place. A short walk up from the Campo will lead to the enormous church of /San Domenico] which in medieval times was where the Dominican Friars worshipped. Just opposite this church, in 1347, Catherine, daughter of Giacomo and Lapa Benincasa was born - their 23rd child!

Watching the friars going to and from their church made the child Catherine determined to devote her life to God. She turned away from all the normal pursuits and expectations of the daughter of a prosperous dyer. But she worried those around her by her odd behaviour, her melodramatic outbursts and her visions and trances. Her ambition to follow the religious life was partially resolved when she was allowed to join the tertiary order of the Dominicans - which meant that she continued to live with her family, but was encouraged to work amongst the sick and the poor of Siena. When she was 20 she experienced a vision in which she felt that she was married to Christ.

From this traumatic event she claimed that she could always feel the presence of a gold marriage ring upon her finger. But her previous volatility was now replaced by a controlled determination to continue her good works with the poor and needy. In her twenties, Catherine, to her delight, learnt to read which opened up a new and scholarly dimension to her life. Whether she ever leant to write is open to some doubt. But she gathered around her a band of followers known as the Caterinati and knowledge of her faith, and wisdom spread far from Siena. She sent many letters to a wide range of notable contemporaries - kings, princes, knights, religious leaders. She put together her understanding of her faith in The Dialogue of Divine Providence. She became the confidante of two popes, Gregory XI and Urban VI.

She fought hard to restore the Papacy to Rome from exile in Avignon and she tried to bring peace to the warring city-states of Italy. She died in Rome at the age of 33. Her body was buried in Rome, but her head was brought back to the church of /San Domenico] where it was placed in a chapel specially dedicated to her. She was made a saint in 1461, was made joint patron saint of Italy in 1940 and a patron saint of Europe in 1999. She is remembered principally for her total devotion to her faith, her personal holiness and her ceaseless efforts for those around her. (NB nothing to do with the Catherine Wheel - that belongs almost 1,000 years earlier to Saint Catherine of Alexandria!)

Richard Allen

1 MaySs Philip & James, Apostles

2 MayAthanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373

8 MayJulian of Norwich

14 MaySt Matthias the Apostle

19 MayDunstan, Archbishop 988

Dunstan was a towering figure in the Anglo Saxon church. He was a scholar, artist, craftsman and musician. His championing of music in worship, particularly of Gregorian plainsong chant - enabled the Anglo Saxons to reach a high standard of singing in their churches. His skills as a metalworker enhanced the casting of bells for church towers and the building of organs for worship.

His creativity as a painter resulted in one of his illuminated manuscripts finding its way eventually to the British Museum. But, above all, it was his determination to pioneer a revival of monasticism in England for which he will be most remembered. Before he went to Canterbury he had been Abbot of Glastonbury for fifteen years. Here in his native Wessex he set a fine example of the working of the Benedictine Rule which he continued when he became Archbishop.

Much revered as scholar, leader and administrator he was at Canterbury on Ascension Day 988 when he told his congregation that he was near to death and he died two days later.

25 MayThe Venerable Bede, 735

St Bede is widely regarded as the greatest of all the Anglo-Saxon scholars. He wrote around 40 books mainly dealing with theology and history.

Bede was probably born in Monkton, Durham. At the age of seven he was entrusted to the care of Benedict Biscop, who in 674 AD had founded the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth. In 682 AD, Bede moved the monastery at Jarrow, where he spent the rest of his life. By the age of 19 he had become a deacon and was promoted to priest at 30.

His scholarship covered a huge range of subjects, including commentaries on the bible, observations of nature, music and poetry. His most famous work, which is a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' or 'The Ecclesiastical History of the English People' which was completed in 731 AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used.

Bede died in his cell at the monastery in May 735 AD.

26 MaySaint Augustine of Canterbury, 605

In the 'good old days' British history was taught chronologically! We would start with the landing of Julius Caesar in 55BC. Then, just before King Alfred burnt the cakes, we would meet St Augustine. This was St Augustine of Canterbury, archbishop and administrator, not to be confused with St Augustine of Hippo, writer and philosopher, who had lived some two hundred years earlier.

So why was our St Augustine, a monk in Rome sent to such a savage and uncivilised country as England? Well, legend has it that Pope Gregory the Great was in the marketplace in Rome when he came across a pen of children being sold into slavery. The Pope was struck by the blonde hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks of these children. He was told that these children were Angles. 'They should be called Angels, not Angles!' was his reply. But when he discovered that these 'angels' knew nothing of Christianity, he decided to act.

England, at the time, was a tangle of small, quarrelsome kingdoms, each with their own pagan gods. There were Celtic Christians in the far north and west, but they were cut off from the south of the country by the heathen Saxons in central England. Augustine had served Gregory at one time as his private secretary and his work as prior of his monastery in Rome confirmed for the Pope that he was a man of self discipline and determination.

Neither Augustine nor his fellow monks relished this journey into an unknown land but, after a false start in Gaul (France), the expedition arrived in Ebbsfleet on the Isle of Thanet in 597. They were well received by Ethelbert, King of Kent, who had a Christian wife, and was himself soon baptised. The people of Kent quickly followed their king and, according to the historian, the Venerable Bede, on Christmas Day 597, over 10,000 converts were baptised.

A cathedral was established on the site of an old Roman church in Canterbury and it was dedicated 'in the name of the holy Saviour, our God and Lord Jesus Christ'- hence Christchurch, Canterbury. As Augustine sought to extend Christian influence beyond the tiny kingdom of Kent, he was under strict orders from the Pope to develop 'Roman ways'. This was to lead to conflict with Celtic traditions over matters such as the date of Easter, the shape of the monk's tonsure and the ritual of baptism. Such differences were not resolved until the Synod of Whitby in 664.

Meanwhile, Augustine, before he died in 605, successfully established two further dioceses at Rochester and London. The importance of St Augustine lies in the successful establishment of a permanent foothold for Christianity in southern England. It also lies in his obedience to the Pope which led to the strong links with Rome which were to be such a feature of Christianity in this country until the Reformation, almost a thousand years later.

Richard Allen

5 JunBoniface of Crediton

9 JunColumba, Abbot of Iona

11 JunSaint Barnabas

'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith'. This wonderful tribute to this saint was written by St Luke in Acts 12. Because of these qualities Barnabas was called 'an Apostle' even though he was not one of the original twelve. He was born 'Joseph', but was known by the other Christian leaders as 'Barnabas' meaning 'son of encouragement'. All this from perhaps a rather unlikely background given the hostility of so many prominent Jews to the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. For Barnabas was born a prosperous Jew, a member of a Levite family which had for many generations been part of the strong Jewish settlement on the island of Cyprus. He was almost certainly present at the stoning of Stephen the first martyr and, at the scene of that tragedy, would have seen Saul of Tarsus the fierce denunciator of the followers of Jesus (Acts 7).

He was to play a leading role in the spreading of the gospel beyond the Holy Land, working with Peter, Paul and John Mark and proving to be one of the first of the great missionaries. After Acts 15 we hear no more of him apart from one or two passing references to him in Paul's epistles. He established the new church in his homeland of Cyprus and, according to legend, met a martyr's death on that island, being, like Saint Stephen, stoned to death. So what were the characteristics which made Barnabas such a highly respected and well loved member of the Christian fellowship?

  • Generosity : his commitment was total for he sold his possessions and gave them to the new church.
  • Trust: he persuaded the wary church leaders in Jerusalem to accept Paul by telling them how Paul had been converted on his way to Damascus.
  • Leadership: he was sent to preach to the people of Antioch (north of Damascus); he was clearly the leader of the first missionary journey to Cyprus on which he was accompanied by Paul and John Mark.
  • Courage: he had strong opinions which he was not afraid to express. He tended to support St Peter rather than St Paul in the early discussions on how far Gentile converts should assume Jewish ways.

He spoke up for John Mark in whom Paul had little confidence to the extent that the 'disagreement' between the apostles, 'became so sharp that they parted company'. (Acts 15) All these characteristics paint a picture of a man of strength, of commitment, of action and of integrity. Hence his popularity as a saint with many artists choosing him as a subject and many churches and organisations adopting him as their patron saint. Barnabas an apostle: 'full of the Holy Spirit'.

Richard Allen

16 JunSt Richard, Bishop of Chichester

The Common Worship lectionary has moved his day from April 3rd to June 16th which was when, in 1253, he was buried in his shrine behind the high altar of the cathedral in Chichester. He had died in Dover and his body was carried all the way back to Chichester - even perhaps taking a route north of the Downs from Lewes and perhaps passing close to our community as it mourned the loss of a much loved bishop.

Richard de Wych in his earlier career was a specialist in the law of the church. He had been Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and then 'right hand man' to St Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury. After the death of St Edmund, Richard?s career took a different turn as he went to study in France, was ordained priest and was on the point of joining the Dominican Friars when he was called to succeed Ralph Nevill as Bishop of Chichester in 1244. King Henry III refused to accept this new bishop and it was not until 1246 that Richard could enter his diocese. But he soon showed himself as a true pastoral and spiritual leader of his people.

He made the cathedral the focal point of the diocese. He insisted that parish churches were kept in good repair. The laity were to be taught by the clergy who were to carry out all their duties in a fitting fashion. Those who disobeyed the bishop were in danger of excommunication. Such was the fate of the Rector of Ditchling, Master Deodatus - how frustrating that we do not know why!! Richard's saintliness was shown in his great concern for the poor, in his disregard for his own wealth and comfort and in the purity of his personal life. Miracles were attributed to him in his powers of healing and in his control over the elements. All enough to bring him sainthood within 9 years of his death.

For us, we thank St Richard for those wonderful words of his prayer. How conscious we are of the benefits we have received from our Lord and how much we long to know Him more clearly, love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly.

Richard Allen

22 JunAlban, First Martyr of Britain c 250

23 JunEthelreda, Abbess of Ely c 678

24 JunThe Birth of St John the Baptist

28 JunIrenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c 200

29 JunSs Peter & Paul, Apostles

3 JulSt Thomas the Apostle

11 JulSt Benedict of Nursia

20 JulSt Margaret of Antioch

22 JulSt Mary Magdalene

25 JulSt James the Apostle

8 AugSaint Dominic

One of the challenges to the Western Christian Church of the early thirteenth century came from the Cathars, a group of Christians living around Albi in the South of France. Pope Innocent III called for a crusade to eradicate what he saw as the heresy of the Cathars - this was known as the Albigensian Crusade. Many fighting men responded to the Pope by setting about the heretics in a brutal and violent manner. Others responded by seeking to put right the beliefs of the heretics, using words rather than violence. One of these men of peace was Saint Dominic (c 1170-1221), remembered by the Church on August 8th and whose view was, 'Arm yourself with prayer, not a sword. Wear humility, not fine clothes'.

It was with prayer and humility, combined with rigorous teaching that Dominic answered a second great challenge to the Church of this period. This was the generally low standard of knowledge and understanding of the faith and poor practical application of this faith in worship. Powerful and influential the monasteries may have been, but they were seen as too isolated from the way of life of the average parishioner. What was needed was a more direct approach to Christian people in their everyday lives - an identification with their poverty and with their hand-to-mouth existence. This was provided by both Saint Francis and Saint Dominic who almost simultaneously set up their orders of friars (friar = brother).

The Dominicans were known as Black Friars because of the black cape which they wore over their white tunics and they tended to set up their houses more in towns and cities, particularly in centres of learning such as Oxford, Toulouse and Milan. Dominic was a native of Spain, who subsequently travelled widely as he encouraged his Order of Preachers to do. He expected them to live very simply from any money they were given, they were not only to preach actively but also to make time for study, prayer and meditation. The Dominicans were the first order of friars to arrive in England, followed very closely by the Franciscans and both were to have a major influence on the development of church life in this country.

Our own Saint Richard, (Bishop of Chichester 1244-1253) was greatly attracted to the ways of life of the friars, and, to raise the standards of the clergy in his diocese, he used the Dominicans in the Visitations made to the parishes during his time as bishop. In his will, he made several bequests to Dominican houses of friars. The attractiveness of the early friars was in their identification with our Lord's teaching and with his command to his disciples to go out and preach the word, living as simply as possible and always associating themselves with the poor and least privileged in society. For the example he set, we are indeed indebted to Saint Dominic who died at Treviso in Italy in 1221 and who was made a saint in 1234.

Richard Allen

15 AugThe Blessed Virgin Mary

24 AugSt Bartholomew the Apostle

The feast day of St Bartholomew, the Apostle, comes on August 24th. He is one of the least known of the apostles. Indeed, we are sure neither of his name nor of his identity. It is generally thought that the disciple named Bartholomew in the first three gospels is the same as the one referred to as Nathaniel in John?s gospel. And so, the names Bartholomew and Nathaniel are interchangeable. There is a vivid contrast in the comments made by Jesus and Bartholomew at their first meeting. When Philip asked Bartholomew to come and see the prophet from Nazareth, Bartholomew's reply was, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' And yet our Lord's judgement on first seeing this new potential disciple was, 'Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.' On the previously sceptical Bartholomew, the impact of meeting Jesus of Nazareth was overwhelming: 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel'

The only other references in the New Testament to this month's saint are to his name. We only have the vaguest knowledge of what happened to him subsequently. There are suggestions that he took the gospel to Asia Minor - or even to India - and that he was martyred at what is now called Derbent on the west coast of the Caspian Sea. It was a grisly martyrdom - flayed alive and then beheaded - his emblem is a butcher's knife. Close to us in Brighton we have the great church of St Bartholomew - the tallest parish church in Britain - and opened in 1874.

750 years earlier the saint had been remembered in the founding of the great hospital of St Bartholomew in Smithfield, London. The hospital was said to be founded by Rathere, a courtier of King Henry I (1100-1125) who had a vision of St Bartholomew which inspired him to found a priory and hospital to care for the sick and the poor. There is, for us, a steadiness and assurance about St Bartholomew - the fisherman who worked in Galilee alongside James and John, the disciple who immediately recognised the uniqueness of our Lord. The apostle who, after the Ascension, faithfully followed the command of the Risen Christ to return to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Richard Allen

29 AugThe Beheading of John the Baptist

3 SepSt Gregory the Great

8 SepThe Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

13 SepSt John Chrysostom, Bishop

21 SepSt Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist

This month we have a saint who was one of the original twelve apostles. Traditionally, St Matthew was remembered as the tax-collector and as the writer of the first gospel. Modern scholars, however, advise us to distinguish between Matthew the Evangelist and Matthew the Tax Collector; they were two distinct early Christians. Matthew the Evangelis] wrote his gospel towards the end of the first century. He was a Greek-speaking Jew, from Syria, who wrote very much for Jews who struggled to reconcile the Risen Christ, the Messiah, with the God of the Old Testament. And so, Matthew, in the first chapter of his gospel, was at pains to put Jesus of Nazareth into an exact genealogical setting - 28 generations back to Abraham - so that there could be no doubt about the identity of Jesus. Indeed, this gospel is sometimes called the Teacher's Gospel because Matthew put together the stories and sayings of Jesus in such a way to help the young Christian church of his time. Matthew the Tax Collector, whose original name was Levi, was the son of Alphaeus. He collected taxes at Capernaum for Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. He was thoroughly disliked by self respecting Pharisees not only because he worked for the puppet regime of Herod Antipas, but because he was the host at a banquet at which other public servants and sinners were allowed to gather around Jesus. But this occasion allowed our Lord to clearly explain the purpose of his earthly ministry: For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners (Matt 9.13). Of Matthew the Tax Collector we know very little more. He was present at the major events of Jesus' earthly life. Thereafter, all is conjecture. He may have been martyred, perhaps in Persia, perhaps in an area close to the Caspian Sea, known as Ethiopia (not modern Ethiopia). In medieval paintings he is often depicted with a money box and sometimes with spectacles as he pored over his accounts. Not surprisingly, Matthew is the patron saint of accountants, tax collectors, book keepers, customs agents and, more surprisingly, security guards. Perhaps it is fitting for us to remember Matthew the Tax Collector as the apostle most associated with finance in this month of September when our TRIO campaign is to be launched. At the same time, we need to be reminded that all the money we raise is to enable us to spread the good news and, for help in this, we are much in the debt of Matthew the Evangelist.

Richard Allen

29 SepSt Michael and All Angels

12 OctSaint Wilfrid

Wilfrid was a dominating influence in the Christian Church of seventh century England. He lived from 633 until 709. A saint to be remembered more for his energy and enterprise than for his holiness or humility. He was the son of a Northumbrian nobleman and, after early study at Lindisfarne, he spent many years in France and Italy. He became convinced that the ways of the Latin Church in Rome were to be preferred to those of the Celtic Church in Britain. Over matters such as the calculation of Easter Day and the correct shape of the monastic tonsure, it was Wilfrid who, at the Synod of Whitby 664, argued vehemently that the only way forward was for the church in Britain to fall in line with Latin ways. His arguments prevailed.

At one time, he was a very powerful Bishop of York, but his domineering personality brought him enemies as well as followers and, in time, he fell out with the Kings of Northumbria and with Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury. The result of these quarrels were lengthy appeals to the Popes in Rome who, although they generally supported Wilfrid, could not prevent unilateral action being taken against him in Britain. Thus, in the course of his ministry and at various times, Wilfrid found himself driven into exile from his diocese and even thrown into prison.

Yet despite such setbacks, his zeal for preaching the gospel never faltered. Shipwrecked off the coast of Frisia (present day Holland), he spent a year there converting people described as 'barbarous' by the Venerable Bede. In 681, a storm drove Wilfrid ashore on the coast of West Sussex. Sussex was the last of the kingdoms in Southern Britain to be converted - it was isolated from the rest of the country by both the sea and by the thick forests of the Weald.

So, Wilfrid set about winning the support of the King of the South Saxons, King Ethelwald, who granted Wilfrid land at Selsey. Here, he established his church and created the first centre for our diocese. Although all traces of these early church buildings have been submerged by the encroaching sea, the work of Wilfrid had a permanent and positive effect on Christian life in the land of the South Saxons.

And that is why he is remembered in the many dedications throughout our county. After five years or so, Wilfrid returned to the north of England, but his quarrelsome ways soon brought him into disputes with fellow churchmen and rulers. Despite retaining considerable personal wealth and control over many of the monasteries which he had established, he ended his days as the Bishop of Hexham, a comparatively small diocese to the far north of the country. Wilfrid was an unashamed prince of the church. He was not always popular, but he had the drive and singlemindedness to get things done and to ensure that the work of preaching the gospel continued.

Richard Allen

13 OctEdward the Confessor

28 OctSs Simon and Jude, Apostles

11 NovSt Martin of Tours

19 NovHilda, Abbess of Whitby 680

On November 19th the Church remembers Hilda of Whitby (614-680) who demonstrated the important role women played in the development of Christianity in the Early English kingdoms. Hilda was of noble birth and brought up in the household of King Edwin of Northumbria. It was not until she was in her thirties that she decided to forsake themore leisurely life of a noblewoman for that of a nun. Under the influence of Aidan of Iona and Lindisfarne, Hilda was persuaded to remain in the north of England and she eventually became Abbess of Whitby.

This was a double monastery containing both monks and nuns and at the head of the community was Abbess Hilda. The monastery had very large estates and, as a result, Hilda not only supervised the monks who led the worship, the nuns who devoted themselves to prayer and contemplation, but she was also responsible for the large number of lay servants and craftsmen who looked after the monastery and its estates.

Amongst the servants in Hilda's time was Caedmon, a herdsman, who, according to the historian, the Venerable Bede, received the gift of song miraculously in a dream and subsequently turned many Bible stories into Old English verse. Known for her piety, her knowledge and wisdom, Hilda also played a pivotal role in the meeting of English church leaders at the monastery at Whitby in 664. At this Synod the crucial decision was made that the church in England should follow Roman ways rather than Celtic ways. Although the discussion was principally about the date of Easter far more significant was the consequent bringing of the church in England into line with the broad development of Western Christendom. Although previously a staunch upholder of Celtic ways, Hilda immediately accepted the decision of the Synod and followed Roman ways thereafter.

Perhaps an example to be followed in present difficulties within our Church 1400 years later - for Hilda the unity of the Church was more important that her own traditions and inclinations. When Hilda died in 680, it was according to Bede 'after a life full of heavenly deeds'.

Richard Allen

23 NovClement, Bishop of Rome

30 NovSt Andrew the Apostle

There is an intriguing connection between the Beacon Saint for October - Wilfrid - and this month's Saint - Andrew the Apostle. And yet they lived six hundred years apart! Legend has it that Wilfrid came back from a pilgrimage to Rome clutching some relics of St Andrew - probably pieces of bone - and presented them to the King of Scotland. The King installed these relics at a place in Fife which we know as St Andrews. Of course, Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and the St Andrew Cross (the saltire) with its X shape is part of the Union Jack. Sadly, like so many other stories about St Andrew it is very unlikely that he had any genuine connection with Scotland or with Russia, Romania or Greece, all claiming him as their patron saint.

It is said that he chose to be martyred on the X shaped cross because he felt unworthy to be crucified on the same style of cross as Jesus. Again, this tradition of his martyrdom dates probably from as late as 900AD and we really know nothing of what happened to him after the Resurrection and Ascension. Andrew joins that set of elusive apostles about whom we know so little. Yet what we do know about him makes him very special and one of our favourite saints. For he it was who was the very first to recognise Jesus as the Messiah: 'We have found the Messiah' - he brought Simon to Jesus (John 1).

Known for this decisive action as the first disciple, the Protoclete, Andrew also played a crucial role in the Feeding of the Five Thousand. He it was who brought to Jesus the five loaves and two fish and, although he said to our Lord, 'What are they among so many people?'(John 6), there is a confidence in Andrew that Our Lord would know what to do with such meagre supplies, as, of course, he did. Andrew shared a house in Capernaum with his brother Peter and he was a Galilean fisherman. Hence it is entirely appropriate that he should be the patron saint of all who catch and sell fish.

Whether this also qualifies him to be the special saint for singers is less obvious even if there is some logic in him being the saint called upon by those suffering from sore throats! There is a steadfastness and serene certainty about the discipleship of Andrew and his feast day on November 30th points us delightfully to the celebration of the coming of the Messiah, just 25 days later, at Christmas.

Richard Allen

3 DecFrancis Xavier

On December 2nd, the Church remembers the Saints, Martyrs and Missionaries of Asia. On the following day, December 3rd, Francis Xavier is remembered as one of the first missionaries from the west to take the 'good news' to Asia. He was following, therefore, in the footsteps of the apostle Saint Thomas who is traditionally thought to have visited India.

Francis Xavier first went to Goa in Western India in 1541, just thirty or so years after the area had been established as a colony of Portugal. Francis had been one of the original members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) founded by Ignatius Loyola and dedicated to the spreading of the gospel. Not content with ministering solely to the Portuguese settlers, Francis started a mission to the native Indians, deploring the abuse he saw of the poor. In letters home to Ignatius Loyola, he pleaded for more Christians in the west to join him in his missionary work, 'Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians'.

He extended his work over to the south east coast of India and then across the Indian Ocean to Malacca, another Portuguese colony. Further voyages took him to the Spice Islands, which we would know as Indonesia, and then still further to Japan and to mainland China. All this exploration and missionary work completed in eleven years and only three decades since the first circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan.

Francis was daunted neither by the need to learn the languages of those he sought to convert, nor by the diplomacy needed to win over local rulers. And he appealed for all Christians to 'cry out with all their hearts: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like'. After a life of great energy and dedication, he died near Canton at the age of 46. His body was taken back to Goa where he was buried and where he was to be held in great veneration.

Francis Xavier is indeed a saint for us to venerate and admire as we join in the Collect for his day praying that we might have his zeal for our faith.

Richard Allen

6 DecSt Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c 326

7 DecAmbrose, Bishop of Milan, Teacher 397

13 DecSt Lucy, Martyr at Syracuse, 304

14 DecJohn of the Cross, Poet, Teacher 1591

26 DecSt Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

27 DecSt John, Apostle & Evangelist

If there was ever an order of merit for saints then Saint John the Apostle would surely be right there at the top of the list. And yet, his feast day on December 27th, just two days after Christmas Day, passes almost unnoticed. Perhaps this is just what he would have wanted since in his gospel he only referred to himself anonymously as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'. At first sight, such a description might suggest an air of exclusivity, but, in fact, John's purpose was quite the opposite - he wanted to diminish his own role in order to emphasise the true nature of his Master, Jesus Christ. He would entirely approve of his feast day being placed in the shadow of the most important birthday of all time.

So who was Saint John? We know that there was a John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James and a fisherman from Galilee. It was John who sat next to our Lord at the Last Supper. Such was our Lord-s confidence in the caring nature of John that, at the Crucifixion, it was to John that Jesus entrusted the care of his mother Mary. It was John who raced across the garden to the empty tomb and who followed Peter into the tomb and 'he saw and believed'. Again, it was John who, after the Resurrection, first recognised as Jesus the figure standing on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. Then our certainty about John begins to evaporate.

It is thought that he was spared martyrdom and lived to a great age, spending his final years at Ephesus. His frailty became such that he could no longer preach the good news, but he would like to be carried down to speak to groups of followers and say very simply, 'Love one another. That is the Lord's command and, if you keep it, that by itself is enough'. Scholars still debate whether it is the same John or a number of Johns who wrote the Fourth Gospel, the three letters and the Book of Revelation.

We can perhaps just be thankful that we have such remarkable books in our New Testament. Clearly, the Fourth Gospel had a different purpose to the preceding three. John was writing for those who already knew the facts about Jesus, but who were looking for a deeper explanation of his overwhelming importance. For John, that Jesus was divine and was the Son of God was never in doubt and he saw that the life, death and resurrection of our Lord were all part of God's great scheme for the world. All put so wonderfully in the first verses of the Gospel we shall hear on Christmas Morning 'In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God'. Perhaps, after all, our modest, self-effacing saint for December is not entirely in the shadows on Christmas Day.

Richard Allen

29 DecThomas Becket