Saints Days

Sculpture of St John the Evangelist
X Sculpture of St John the Evangelist Sculpture of St John the Evangelist

A list of saints days in chronological order is shown below. Please click on any saint's name to see more information.  Alternatively enter a saints name or title (eg archbishop) or other keyword in the box below to search for that saint.  To list saints days in a particular month select the appropriate month.


10 JanWilliam Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury

Stained glass of William Laud
X Stained glass of William Laud Stained glass of William Laud

William Laud, born in 1573, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645 in the days of King Charles I. It was a turbulent time throughout, one of violent divisions in the Church of England, eventually culminating in the English Civil War.

An example is the surplice controversy. In the late 1500s and early 1600s, there were Christians in England who objected to the  surplice as something that the Roman Catholics had worn before the Reformation, which made it one of the props of idolatrous worship. Archbishop Laud regarded it as a seemly, dignified, garment, an appropriate response to the Apostle Paul's injunction, "Let all things be done decently and in order."

Under English Law, it was part of Laud's office as Archbishop to maintain order and to punish offences against the peace of the Church. He made it his practice to proceed not only against poor and obscure offenders, but also, perhaps especially, against rich and powerful ones. His integrity on this point ultimately cost Laud his life.

Laud made enemies chiefly in three ways. He punished those who attacked the Church; he upheld various customs in public worship (such as the wearing of the surplice) that aroused the suspicion and fury of those whe feared a return to power of Roman Catholicism and he sought the financial independence of the clergy, so that a preacher was not dependent on what support the local squire was pleased to give him. His proposed means to this end was to restore to the Church some of the Church lands that had been seized by Henry VIII, but the mere whisper of such a proposal was enough to make every landholder in the country feel personally threatened.

In 1637 an attempt was made to introduce the Book of Common Prayer into general use in Scotland, and it immediately caused rioting. In 1638, Scottish leaders pledged to uphold the Puritan position by force, and voted to depose and excommunicate every bishop in Scotland. The unrest spread to England, and in 1640 Laud was arrested on a charge of high treason. He was kept in the Tower for four years, and tried in 1644, at the age of seventy-one. He was found guilty, not because there was any evidence of his guilt, but because the House of Commons was determined that he should die. On the scaffold he prayed: "The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy on me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them."

12 JanAelred of Rievaulx

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, (born c. 1110, Hexham, Northumberland, Eng.—died Jan. 12, 1167, Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire), writer, historian, and outstanding Cistercian abbot who influenced monasticism in medieval England, Scotland, and France. His feast day is celebrated by the Cistercians on February 3.

Of noble birth, Aelred was reared at the court of King David I of Scotland, whose life story he later wrote and for whom he was royal steward. He entered the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx about 1134, and from 1143 to 1147 he was abbot of Revesby in Lincolnshire. In late 1147 he became abbot of Rievaulx.

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

Saul, a student of the great Pharisee rabbi Gamaliel, had persecuted Christians, but was suddenly converted on the road to Damascus when our Lord appeared to him in His resurrected glory (Acts 9:1-9). From this point, he took the name Paul, and would become the “Apostle to the Gentiles.”

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.

15 FebThomas Bray

A country rector, Bray was chosen in 1696 by the bishop of London to provide ecclesiastical assistance in the Maryland colony, where he lived for several months in 1700, but he worked for the most part in England and corresponded with the colony.

Bray’s founded the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1698. On his return to England, Bray founded the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in 1701 as a separate society for foreign missions.

In 1706 Bray was appointed Vicar of St Botolph Without, Aldgate, where he ministered until his death in 1730 at the age of 74. He served the parish with energy and devotion, while continuing his efforts on behalf of African slaves in America and in the founding of parochial libraries. Before his death he had been instrumental in the establishment of some eighty parochial libraries.

When the deplorable condition of English prisons was brought to his attention, Bray set to work to influence public opinion and to raise funds to alleviate the misery of the inmates. He organized Sunday “Beef and Beer” dinners in prisons and advanced proposals for prison reform.

Bray’s most widely circulated work was A Course of Lectures upon the Church Catechism, published in 1696. He is commemorated in several Churches in the Anglican Communion on this date.

27 FebGeorge Herbert

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George Herbert was born in 1593, a cousin of the Earl of Pembroke. His mother was a friend of the poet John Donne. George attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and became the Public Orator of the University, responsible for giving speeches of welcome in Latin to famous visitors, and writing letters of thanks, also in Latin, to acknowledge gifts of books for the University Library. This brought him to the attention of King James I, who granted him an annual allowance, and seemed likely to make him an ambassador. However, in 1625 the king died, and George Hebert, who had originally gone to college with the intention of becoming a priest, but had head turned by the prospect of a career at Court, determined anew to seek ordination. In 1626 he was ordained, and became vicar and then rector of the parish of Bemerton and neighboring Fugglestone, not far from Salisbury.

He served faithfully as a parish priest, diligently visiting his parishioners and bringing them the sacraments when they were ill, and food and clothing when they were in want. He read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in the church, encouraging the congregation to join him when possible, and ringing the church bell before each service so that those who could not come might hear it and pause in their work to join their prayers with his. He used to go once a week to Salisbury to hear Evening Prayer sung there in the cathedral. On one occasion he was late because he had met a man whose horse had fallen with a heavy load, and he stopped, took off his coat, and helped the man to unload the cart, get the horse back on its feet, and then reload the cart. His spontaneous generosity and good will won him the affection of his parishioners.

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.

2 MarChad, monastic founder, abbot, and first bishop of..

St Chad, monastic founder, abbot, and first bishop of Lichfield, is credited with the Christianization of the ancient English kingdom of Mercia.  With his brother St Cedd, he was educated at the great abbey of Lindisfarne on Holy Island under its founder, Abbot St Aidan. Cedd recalled Chad to England to assist in establishing the monastery of Laestingaeu (now Lastingham, North Yorkshire). Upon Cedd’s death in 664, Chad succeeded him to become the second abbot of Laestingaeu, and, probably late in the same year, at the request of King Oswiu (Oswy) of Northumbria, he was consecrated bishop of the Northumbrians (with his see at York).

An ecclesiastical dispute arose because St. Wilfrid had already been chosen bishop of York and had gone to Gaul for his consecration, a mix-up recorded in Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (considered to be the best source for Chad’s life). The issue remains confusing. When in 669 the new archbishop, St. Theodore of Canterbury, arrived in England, he charged Chad with improper ordination. On Wilfrid’s return in the same year, Chad resigned York and retired to Laestingaeu. Theodore, however, was so impressed with Chad’s humility that when the bishop of Mercia died he asked King Oswiu to appoint Chad as the bishop’s successor. The king approved, and Chad, having been reconsecrated by Theodore in 669, chose Lichfield, where he built a church and monastery, as the new seat of his diocese.

During the last three years of his life, Chad founded a monastery in Lindsey, on land given him by King Wulfhere of Mercia. In the same area Chad supposedly founded another monastery, at Barrow-upon-Humber. He is noted as having conducted his apostolate zealously, travelling much on foot. He died of plague, and numerous miracles were reported as having taken place at his tomb. His relics, originally in the Cathedral of Lichfield, were saved by Roman Catholics during the Reformation and transferred to St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham.

5 MarPiran, patron saint of tinners

St Piran
X St Piran St Piran

St Piran is known as the merriest, hardest drinking, hardest living holy man Cornwall ever knew. He is also the patron saint of tinners, and his feast day used to be kept as a holiday in the parishes of Perranzabuloe (Piran in the Sands), St Agnes and St Day, and others where tin mining has always been the main occupation.

Piran was an Irishman, so legend goes; when still a young man he rose to favour as priest and counsellor to King Aengus of Munster. Aengus had seven harpers who could sing sweetly and play like angels, but one dark winter’s day they were all drowned in a storm whilst crossing a treacherous bog; all that was left was their harps, which Aengus hung on the trees beside the swamp so that the winds played sad tunes on them.

But Piran worked a great miracle: he prayed for three days and nights without ceasing, and brought back to life those harpers, though they had lain in the mud and ooze of the bog for more than a month.

For several years Piran advised King Aengus and heard him confess his sins; then the King grew tired of his wife, Queen Aisnin, and coveted a lady of the Court who was younger and more beautiful. Aengus wished to put away Queen Aisnin and marry the other; and Piran saw it was his duty to forbid this.

But the King would not listen to Piran’s warnings; so the holy man preached against the King before all the Court. At this Aengus became so angered against Piran that he condemned him to be bound to a millstone and thrown off the highest cliff in Munster.

But all the watchers were astounded to see, when the stone hit the sea far below, that Piran’s bounds were loosed and the stone itself actually floated. It sailed with him on it far away from Ireland, amid the waves and storms of the Celtic Sea; Piran had no control over the floating stone, but when at last the voyage was over and it rolled ashore on the north coast of Cornwall, he realised what God was planning for him to do.

So he began again, teaching the Gospel to the Cornish people, who until then had worshipped their own Celtic gods of the sun and rain, and followed their Druids. He laboured to build himself a little church, which to this day still exists near Perranporth: St Piran’s Oratory, or praying-place, the oldest Christian church in all Britain.

Piran was very popular among his people, and he became even more so after discovering how to smelt tin. One frosty night he built in his seashore cave a larger fire than usual: and as he was sitting before it mediating, a big black rock he had brought home for a hearth-stone suddenly began to melt down in the great heat, and soon a stream of silver metal ran out from it. He called the people round to see it; and it seemed to them another miracle, to see the bright metal coming from the black ore. Soon the miners of the parishes round about where digging and smelting tin, and selling it to merchants from all over Europe.

So Piran became the Tinner’s Saint, and that is why the flag of Cornwall is known as the Cross of St. Piran: a white cross on a black ground, symbolising the light of God in a dark world, and also the white tin metal against the black rock.

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 MarJoseph of Nazareth

Joseph was a descendant of the house of King David. After marrying Mary, he found her already pregnant and, “being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace” (Matthew 1:19), decided to divorce her quietly, but an angel told him that the child was the Son of God and was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

20 MarCuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 687

Statue of St Cuthbert on Holy Island
X Statue of St Cuthbert on Holy Island Statue of St Cuthbert on Holy Island

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, 1556

Cranmer was archbishop of Canterbury (1533 - 1556) and a leader of the English Reformation who was responsible for establishing the basic structures of the Church of England.

23 AprGeorge, Martyr, Patron of England c304

St George
X St George St George

Like many saints, St George was described as a martyr after he died for his Christian faith. It is believed that, during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century, St George was executed for refusing to make a sacrifice in honour of the pagan gods.

He is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to Saint Mark). He's also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis. In recent years he has been adopted as patron saint of Scouts.

25 AprMark 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 AprCatherine 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 MayPhilip & James, Apostles

Philip and James were both apostles, and both served Christ faithfully during the very early days of the Church. Philip seems to have been an enthusiastic person. He was the one who brought his friend Nathanael to Jesus, insisting to Nathanael that he had found the person about whom Moses had written.

2 MayAthanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373

Athanasius was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism, the heresy that the Son of God was a creature of like, but not of the same, substance as God the Father. His important works include The Life of St. Antony, On the Incarnation, and Four Orations Against the Arians.

8 MayJulian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (1342-c. 1416) is known to us almost only through her book, The Revelations of Divine Love, which is widely acknowledged as one of the great classics of the spiritual life. She is thought to have been the first woman to write a book in English which has survived.

14 MayMatthias the Apostle

Saint Matthias was chosen from among Jesus' disciples to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. After receiving the Holy Spirit with the other apostles on the day of Pentecost, he left to preach the gospel in Judea and Colchis, where he was crucified.

19 MayDunstan, Archbishop 988

Dunstan (remembered on May 19th) 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.

24 MayJohn and Charles Wesley, Evangelists

John and Charles Wesley are among the most notable evangelists who ever lived. As young men, they formed a party which came to be derisively called Methodists, because they methodically set about fulfilling the commands of scripture. In due course they learned that works cannot save, and discovered salvation by faith in Christ. Afterward, they carried that message to all England in sermon and in song. John Wesley is credited with staving off a bloody revolution in England such as occurred in France.

Although the brothers did not set out to establish a church, the Wesleyans and the Methodists are their offspring.

Both preached, both wrote hymns. But John is more noted for his sermons and Charles for his hymns.

25 MayThe Venerable Bede, 735

The Venerable Bede
X The Venerable Bede The Venerable Bede

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 to 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.

25 MayAldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne

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Born in the year 639, Aldhelm became a monk at Malmesbury, and later was elected its abbot. When the growing Wessex diocese was divided in 705, he became the first Bishop of Sherborne, founding the abbey church. Aldhelm was a great scholar, teacher and singer who, 'by his preaching completed the conquest of Wessex', according to Bede. Tradition has it that he would attract listeners by his singing and then preach the gospel to them. It seems he may have also been responsible for introducing the Rule of St Benedict to the area. He built churches all over Dorset, and the headland -- commonly called St Alban's Head -- is in reality Saint Aldhelm's Head, where there is an ancient chapel. His old English verse, sung to harp accompaniment, was praised by King Alfred. Aldhelm died on this day in the year 709 at Doulting in Somerset, on his way to Malmesbury. 

26 MayAugustine of Canterbury

Stained glass of St Augustine
X Stained glass of St Augustine Stained glass of St Augustine

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

9 JunColumba, Abbot of Iona

Saint Columba (7 December 521 – 9 June 597) was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in present-day Scotland. He founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. He is the Patron Saint of Derry. He was highly regarded by both the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Picts, and is remembered today as a Christian saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Columba reportedly studied under some of Ireland's most prominent church figures and founded several monasteries in the country. Around 563 he and his twelve companions crossed to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll in Kintore before settling in Iona in Scotland, then part of the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata, where they founded a new abbey as a base for spreading Christianity among the northern Pictish kingdoms who were pagan. He remained active in Irish politics, though he spent most of the remainder of his life in Scotland. Three surviving early medieval Latin hymns may be attributed to him.

11 JunBarnabas the Apostle

Barnabas the Apostle
X Barnabas the Apostle Barnabas the Apostle

'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 JunRichard, Bishop of Chichester

It is hard to believe that it is already five years since we celebrated the 750th anniversary of the death of St Richard. The new icon of St Richard which made its way through the diocese was here in St Margaret's on May 13th 2003. 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

Alban is the first recorded Christian martyr. The traditional date of his death is 304, during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian; but many scholars now date it as around 209, during the persecution under the Emperor Septimius Severus. Alban was a pagan, and a soldier in the Roman Army.

23 JunEthelreda, Abbess of Ely c 678

Etheldreda (in Old English Æthelthryth, known in medieval times as Saint Audrey) was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, and was born in Suffolk in the first half of the seventh century. At an early age she was married to an ealdorman of the kingdom, but she remained a virgin.

24 JunThe Birth of St John the Baptist

According to the New Testament, John the Baptist, who was born before Jesus, also had a miracle birth. He preached the Gospel, did good works, and was killed for his teachings. Believers think that his life mirrored the life of Jesus, preparing people to accept Jesus Himself.

28 JunIrenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c 200

St Irenaeus of Lyons (130 – c. 202 AD) was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in the southern regions of present-day France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heterodox or Gnostic interpretations of Scripture as heresy and defining proto-orthodoxy.

29 JunPeter & Paul, Apostles

Peter and Paul were the first Pope and the apostle of nations. The Christian communities have identified in these two apostles the pillars of the Church. Bearers of two different missions but united in fidelity to Christ until martyrdom.

3 JulThomas the Apostle

St. Thomas Aquinas was the greatest of the Scholastic philosophers. He produced a comprehensive synthesis of Christian theology and Aristotelian philosophy that influenced Roman Catholic doctrine for centuries and was adopted as the official philosophy of the church in 1917.

11 JulBenedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict was born at Norcia around 480 AD. During his life, Saint Benedict performed many miracles. He found water on a desolate mountaintop to quench the thirst of his monks. He retrieved a bill hook's iron from the bottom of a lake and rejoined its handle. He prevented a monk from leading a dissolute life through intervention.

20 JulMargaret of Antioch

Saint Margaret of Antioch was the patron of childbirth and pregnant women. Margaret resided in Antioch in Pisidia, where she is believed to be the daughter of a pagan priest.

22 JulMary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus. According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus cleansed her of seven demons, and she financially aided him in Galilee. She was one of the witnesses of the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus and, famously, was the first person to see him after the Resurrection.

Saint Mary Magdalen is the patron saint of the contemplative life, converts, glove makers, hairstylists, penitent sinners, people ridiculed for their piety, perfumeries and perfumers, pharmacists, and women.

25 JulJames the Apostle

James followed Jesus as one of the 12 chosen disciples. This apostle James (for there were two) was the brother of John, and a member of Christ's inner circle of three, along with Peter and John. He proclaimed the gospel after Jesus' resurrection and was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith. James also was the first apostle to shed his blood for Christ. He was martyred in A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2) in Jerusalem. His martyrdom won him the title by which we distinguish him from the other apostle of the same name: "Saint James the Greater."

5 AugOswald, King of Northumbria

Saint Oswald (born c. 604—died 642) Anglo-Saxon king of Northumbria from 633 to 642 who introduced Celtic Christian missionaries to his kingdom and gained ascendancy over most of England.

Oswald’s father, King Aethelfrith (d. 616), had ruled the two ancient Northumbrian kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Expelled from Northumbria upon the accession of his uncle Edwin in 616, Oswald and his brother Oswiu took refuge in Iona in the Hebrides, where they were converted to Christianity.

Edwin was killed fighting King Cadwallon of Gwynedd (in northern Wales) and Penda of Mercia in 633, but the next year Oswald defeated and killed Cadwallon near Hexham. At Oswald’s invitation, St. Aidan led a group of Irish monks from Iona to found a monastery and missionary bishopric for the kingdom at Lindisfarne. The historian Bede says that he asserted his authority over all the peoples of southern England. The pagan king Penda defeated and killed Oswald at Maserfelth (or Maserfeld, probably near Oswestry, in present-day Shropshire). The dead king was venerated as a martyr of the Northumbrian church, and it was believed that his remains worked miracles.

8 AugDominic

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

The New Testament describes Mary as a young virgin who was chosen by God to conceive Jesus through the Holy Spirit. After giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, she raised him in the city of Nazareth in Galilee, and was in Jerusalem at his crucifixion and with the apostles after his ascension.

24 AugBartholomew the Apostle

St Bartholomew
X St Bartholomew St Bartholomew

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

John the Baptist was an ascetic Jewish prophet known in Christianity as the forerunner of Jesus. John preached about God's Final Judgment and baptized repentant followers in preparation for it. Jesus was among the recipients of his rite of baptism.  According to all four canonical gospels of the New Testament, as well as the account of the Jewish historian Josephus, John the Baptist was killed on the orders of a local ruler sometime before Jesus' crucifixion. The gospels claim the king had him beheaded, and his head put on a platter.

31 AugSt Aidan

Aidan was an Irish monk from the monastery St.Columba had founded on the island of Iona. The Britons had been Christian before the Irish, since Britain, though not Ireland, was part of the Roman Empire. Some of the missionaries who first took the faith to Ireland were British: St.Patrick (the patron saint of Ireland) was the most famous but not the only one. But when the power of Rome declined the English (from North Germany) began to infiltrate into Britain and gradually turned it into England. These incoming English were pagans. Up here in the north the kingdom of Northumbria was largely created by the English warrior-leader Aethelfrith but when he was killed in battle (616AD) his children fled into exile and some of these children found their way to what is now South-West Scotland. Here they met the Irish monks of Iona and accepted the the Christian faith. Oswald, the second son of Aethelfrith, grew up determined to re-gain the throne of Northumbria and to let the pagans among his people hear about Christianity. In 633 he fought a successful battle and established himself as king, choosing Bamburgh, a natural outcrop of rock on the North-East coast, as his main fortress. He then invited the monks of Iona to send a mission and eventually Aidan arrived with 12 other monks and chose to settle on the island the English had renamed Lindisfarne.

Here Aidan established an Irish-type monastery of wooden buildings: a small church, small, circular dwelling huts, perhaps one larger building for communal purposes and in time, workshops etc as needed. Here the monks lived a life of prayer, study and austerity (although in this Aidan was said to be moderate - by Irish standards!). From here they went out on mission. First they needed to learn the English language and their English king, Oswald, who had learnt Irish in his boyhood in exile, helped them. Then they went out, using Aidan's only method as a missionary, which was to walk the lanes, talk to all the people he met and interest them in the faith if he could. His monks visited and revisited the villages where he sowed the seeds and in time local Christian communities were formed. One story tells that the king, worried that bishop Aidan would walk like a peasant, gave him a horse but Aidan gave it away to a beggar. He wanted to walk, to be on the same level as the people he met and no doubt to vary his approach when he discovered something of their background and attitudes.

Aidan had to ensure that his efforts did not die with himself and his Ionian monks. What was needed was an English leadership of the English church. He had to educate the next generation of leaders. Irish monks were very keen on Christian education, which required the new skills of book-learning, reading and writing and Latin - the language in which all the books they could obtain were written. Once the essentials of literacy had been grasped the expansion of mental horizons must have been amazing. Books could bridge the natural restrictions of time and space! They began with the 150 psalms (in Latin) and then went on to the four gospels (in Latin). These were the essentials; then they could master as much as their library offered and their minds could hold. Such education at this time could be obtained only in monastic schools. Aidan began with 12 boys, who of course would learn the practical work of being monks, priests and missionaries by observing and working with the older monks. It seems to have been a good system.

The monastery on the Island was for men and boys only. This was not true everywhere. As the Christian faith spread in England double monasteries became popular; under the rule of an Abbess monks and nuns, girls and boys, lived and worked in the same establishment, though not necessarily in close contact! But Lindisfarne was different in that it had been founded specifically to be the centre for mission. It would not have been appropriateto have nuns here, since they could not do the same work: public opinion at the time would not have understood or permitted women to walk the lanes and speak to people they did not know. Yet many of the nuns became very learned and their contribution to the success of the mission was great, for everywhere that Christianity spread books were required and many of these were copied by the nuns in their monasteries. Aidan himself had made sure that it was possible in Northumbria for women to become nuns if they so wished. He had "discovered" the woman who was to become the most famous Abbess of her day, Hild, who was to be in turn the Abbess of Hartlepool and Whitby. Her contribution to the church was great: at least five of her (male) students became bishops.

After 16 years as bishop Aidan died at Bamburgh in 651AD. We do not know his age. What he had achieved may not have been clear to him at death but subsequent history showed the strong foundations and lasting success of his mission. The missionaries trained in his school went out and worked for the conversion of much of Anglo-Saxon England.

3 SepGregory the Great

Saint Gregory the Great is known for instituting the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian mission, to convert the then largely pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope.

13 SepSt John Chrysostom, Bishop

Ascetic, unimposing but dignified, and troubled by stomach ailments from his desert days as a monk, John became a bishop under the cloud of imperial politics. If his body was weak, his tongue was powerful. The content of his sermons, his exegesis of Scripture, were never without a point.

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 Evangelist] 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

Saint Michael is an archangel, a spiritual warrior in the battle of good versus evil. He is considered a champion of justice, a healer of the sick, and the guardian of the Church. In art Saint Michael is depicted with a sword, a banner, or scales, and is often shown vanquishing Satan in the form of a dragon.

4 OctFrancis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi
X Francis of Assisi Francis of Assisi

Born in Italy circa 1181, Saint Francis of Assisi was renowned for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned for ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison — awaiting his father's payment — and, according to legend, began receiving visions from God. After his release from prison, Francis heard the voice of Christ, who told him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. Consequently, he abandoned his life of luxury and became a devotee of the faith, his reputation spreading all over the Christian world.

Later in life, Francis reportedly received a vision that left him with the stigmata of Christ — marks resembling the wounds Jesus Christ suffered when he was crucified — making Francis the first person to receive such holy wounds. He was canonized as a saint on July 16, 1228. During his life he also developed a deep love of nature and animals and is known as the patron saint of the environment and animals; his life and words have had a lasting resonance with millions of followers across the globe. Each October, many animals the world over are blessed on his feast day.

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

Edward the Confessor
X Edward the Confessor Edward the Confessor

Edward the Confessor, known by this name for his extreme piety, was canonised in 1161 by Pope Alexander III. He became one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, reigning for an impressive 24 years from 1042 until 1066.

The last king of the House of Wessex was born in Oxfordshire at Islip, son of King Ethelred “the Unready” and his wife Emma of Normandy. He spent much of his early life living in exile in France, his family driven away by Danish rule.

With the support of the powerful Earl of Wessex, Godwin, Edward was able to succeed the throne.  His coronation took place at Winchester Cathedral on 3rd April 1043. During his reign Edward would manage affairs in a fairly consistent manner, however despite this he was faced with some skirmishes occurring both in Scotland and Wales. Edward managed a forceful campaign and in 1053 ordered the assassination of the southern Welsh prince Rhys ap Rhydderch. Furthermore, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn emerged in 1055 and declared himself leader of Wales but was forced back by the English, who forced Gruffydd to swear an oath of loyalty to the king.

Meanwhile, Edward’s leadership continued to reflect his Norman background. One of the most tangible displays of Norman influence was the creation of Westminster Abbey. The project itself was executed in 1042 and was eventually consecrated in 1065. The building represented the first Norman Romanesque church and even though it was to be later demolished in favour of Henry III’s construction, it would play a major role in developing a style of architecture and demonstration of his links to the church.

Edward’s long time abroad and clear Norman style however did contribute to a growing atmosphere of resentment. In January 1045, Edward had sought to calm any conflict between himself and Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, by marrying his daughter Edith.

Unfortunately for Edward, his position was severely compromised by the power held by the earls, in particular Godwin, Leofric and Siward. In time the earls would grow increasingly irate at the clear demonstrations of Norman favouritism exhibited by the king.

The tension boiled over when Edward chose Robert of Jumièges as Archbishop of Canterbury instead of Godwin’s relative. The new Archbishop would later accused Godwin of plotting to murder the king. Edward would seize his chance to oust Godwin, with the help of Leofric and Siward and with Godwin’s men unwilling to go up against the king, he outlawed Godwin and his family, which included Edward’s own wife Edith.

In the latter half of Edward’s reign the political picture began to alter and Edward was distancing himself from the political fray, instead engaging in gentlemanly pursuits after attending church every morning. The Godwin family would subsequently control much of England whilst Edward withdrew.

By 1053 Godwin had died leaving his legacy to his son Harold who became responsible for dealing with rebellion in the north of England and Wales. It was these actions that prompted Edward to name Harold as his successor even though it had already been established that William, Duke of Normandy would assume the throne. This inevitably led to conflict and chaos when Edward died on 5th January 1066. The issue of succession was a major contributing factor to the Norman conquest of England.

18 OctLuke the Evangelist

Luke the Evangelist
X Luke the Evangelist Luke the Evangelist

Luke was an Evangelist, the writer of the third Gospel. He never met Christ in person, but in his Gospel he says that he came to know about Jesus by talking to eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection. Hearing those stories helped Luke to become a believer, and he wrote his Gospel so that others would come to know and love Jesus.

Luke was a doctor and he traveled with Saint Paul on his second missionary journey. In fact, Paul calls Luke his “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Because he cared for the bodily needs of others, Luke is the patron saint of doctors. He is also the patron saint of artists because it is believed that he painted a famous portrait of Mary, our Blessed Mother.

In his Gospel, Luke helps us to know how concerned Jesus was for the sick, the poor, and anyone in need of help, mercy, and forgiveness. Luke tells us that Jesus came to save all people. Through Luke’s Gospel, we learn how compassionate and caring Jesus was. 

Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn about the coming of the Holy Spirit; the work of the Apostles, especially Saint Paul; and how the Church grew in the world. He was the one person who was said to have remained with Saint Paul during his imprisonment and until his death.

26 OctAlfred the Great

Statue of Alfred the Great in Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens
X Statue of Alfred the Great in Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens Statue of Alfred the Great in Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens

Alfred the Great, (born 849—died 899), King of Wessex (871–99) in southwestern England. He joined his brother Ethelred I in confronting a Danish army in Mercia (868). Succeeding his brother as king, Alfred fought the Danes in Wessex in 871 and again in 878, when he was the only West Saxon leader to refuse to submit to their authority and was driven from the kingdom to the island of Athelney.

He defeated the Danes at the Battle of Edington (878) and saved Kent from another Danish invasion in 885. The next year he took the offensive and captured London, a success that brought all the English not under Danish rule to accept him as king. The conquest of the Danelaw by his successors was enabled by his strategy, which included the construction of forts and a naval fleet and the reformation of the army.

Alfred drew up an important code of laws and promoted literacy and learning, personally translating Latin works by Boethius, Pope Gregory I, and St. Augustine of Hippo into Anglo-Saxon. The compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was begun under his reign.

28 OctSs Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon and Jude (also known as Judas or Thaddeus) are two of the lesser-known disciples, but though they are not mentioned often in the Gospel, they still are important biblical figures for their closeness to Jesus and His ministry, and for their involvement in the early Church.

11 NovSt Martin of Tours

Saint Martin of Tours, patron saint of Saint Martin's University, figures prominently in the development of Christianity in fourth-century Europe. This gentle, humble servant of God, known best for helping those most in need, was chosen by the people of Tours as their spiritual leader, a role he reluctantly accepted.

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 the more 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

30 NovSt Andrew the Apostle

There is an intriguing connection between the 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

6 DecSt Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c 326

St Nicholas
X St Nicholas St Nicholas

Saint Nicholas of Myra (traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop of Greek descent from the maritime city of Myra in Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire.  Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

He's also called Nicholas the Wonderworker. He was born in Turkey, and he died in Turkey, but he was Greek. Among many other things, St Nicholas is the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants and brewers. The whole tradition of Christmas presents came from St Nicholas' habit of giving gifts to people in secret.

13 DecSt Lucy, Martyr at Syracuse, 304

St. Lucy was a young martyr in Syracuse (Sicily) during the Diocletian persecutions of 304 AD. She consecrated her life to God and served the poor. The governor of Syracuse ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image.

One story is of a judge condemning Lucy to a brothel. But when anyone tried to touch her, they were unable to reach or move her. A variation on this story says that Lucy was so "filled with the Holy Spirit" she became like a mountain, and not even a team of oxen could move her.

She is the patron saint of authors, cutlers, glaziers, labourers, martyrs, peasants, saddlers, salesmen, stained glass workers, and of Perugia, Italy. She is invoked against haemorrhages, dysentery, diseases of the eye, and throat infections. St. Lucy is the patroness of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy.

26 DecSt Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

Saint Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church. He was also the first Christian martyr. The Greek word from which we derive the English word martyr literally means witness. In that sense, every Christian is called to bear witness to Jesus Christ, in both their words and their actions.

27 DecSt John, Apostle & Evangelist

Sculpture of St John the Evangelist
X Sculpture of St John the Evangelist Sculpture of St John the 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

Becket was one of the most powerful figures of his time, serving as royal Chancellor and later as Archbishop of Canterbury. Initially a close friend of King Henry II, the two men became engaged in a bitter dispute that culminated in Becket's shocking murder by knights with close ties to the king.