Feast of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, Caelin, St. Cedd of Lastingham, St. Cynibil of Lastingham, St. Chad of Mercia, St. Vitalian, St. Adrian of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, and St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (March 2)   4 comments

England in 600 CE

Above:  England in 600 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 590-AUGUST 31, 651)

Celtic Missionary Bishop

His feast transferred from August 31

mentor of

CAELIN (600S)

Celtic Priest

brother of

SAINT CEDD OF LASTINGHAM (CIRCA 620-OCTOBER 26, 664)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Bishop of Essex, and Abbot of Lastingham

His feast transferred from October 26

brother of

SAINT CYNIBIL OF LASTINGHAM (CIRCA 622-664)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest and Monk

His feast = March 2

brother of

SAINT CHAD (A.K.A. CEADDA) OF MERCIA (DIED MARCH 2, 672)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of York/the Northumbrians and of Lichfield/the Mercians and the Lindsey People

His feast day = March 2

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SAINT VITALIAN (DIED JANUARY 27, 672)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from January 27

consecrated 

THEODORE OF TARSUS (CIRCA 602-SEPTEMBER 19, 690)

Roman Catholic Monk and Archbishop of Canterbury

His feast transferred from September 19

worked with

SAINT ADRIAN (A.K.A. HADRIAN) OF CANTERBURY (DIED JANUARY 9, 710)

Roman Catholic Abbot of Ss. Peter and Paul’s, Canterbury

His feast transferred from January 9

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SAINT CUTHBERT OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 635-MARCH 20, 687)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Monk, Hermit, Priest, and Bishop of Lindisfarne

His feast transferred from March 20

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INTRODUCTION

Preparation for this post began with one name–St. Chad of Mercia.  As I took notes and followed leads, the number of saints, canonized and otherwise, increased to nine.  I could have gone beyond that, but (A) I had already written about some of the other related saints, and (B) I chose to draw the proverbial line somewhere.  I also thought seriously about covering the material in more than one post, but I decided that writing just one post would maintain the unity of the narrative, with its overlapping lives of saints.  I therefore invite you, O reader, to follow the proverbial bouncing ball and to draw inspiration from the lives of great men of God as you learn about them.

SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 590-AUGUST 31, 651)

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne

Above:  St. Aidan of Lindisfarne

Image in the Public Domain

Augustine was the Apostle of Kent, but Aidan was the Apostle of the English.

–Joseph Lightfoot (1828-1889), Anglican Bishop of Durham (1879-1889)

The best saint with whom to begin the narrative is St. Aidan of Lindisfarne.  The historical record contains little information about his early life.  It does tell us that he was Irish, ascetic, and, from an early age, a monk at Iona.

St. Aidan belonged to the Celtic Church, which preceded the Roman Catholic Church in the British Isles for centuries and existed alongside it for decades until the Synod of Whitby (664).  St. Oswald, the King of Northumbria from 634 to 641/642, was a devout Christian ruler, but a large proportion of his subjects consisted of pagans.  He contacted the great abbey at Iona and requested missionaries.  The first missionary bishop Iona sent was one Corman, who employed harsh tactics, alienated many people, failed thoroughly, and declared that converting the people was impossible.  Iona recalled him and replaced him with St. Aidan in 635.  St. Aidan, as the first Bishop of Lindisfarne (635-651), with the seat of his see at Bamburgh, used gentle tactics of evangelism.  He and his fellow missionaries converted many people, founded many churches, and built schools and monasteries.  He undertook many missionary journeys in Great Britain.  St. Aidan died at Bamburgh on August 31, 651, after returning from one such journey.

FOUR HOLY BROTHERS:  CAELIN, SAINT CEDD OF LASTINGHAM, SAINT CYNIBIL OF LASTINGHAM, AND SAINT CHAD OF MERCIA

St. Aidan taught four Northumbrian brothers at Lindisfarne.  They were Caelin (600s), St. Cedd of Lastingham (circa 620-October 26, 664), St. Cynibil of Lastingham (622-664), and St. Chad of Mercia (died March 2, 672).  These brothers continued their studies under St. Egbert of Lindisfarne (circa 639-729) in Ireland and became priests in the Celtic Church.

St. Cedd

Above:  St. Cedd of Lastingham

Image in the Public Domain

St. Aidan’s successor as Bishop of Lindisfarne was St. Finan of Lindisfarne (in office 651-661).  In 653 Bishop St. Finan sent four priests, including St. Cedd, to engage in missionary work in Northumbria.  The efforts proved successful, leading to the conversion of many people and the building of churches and monasteries.  In 654 St. Finan consecrated St. Cedd as the Bishop of Essex, with the seat of the see at London.  Four years later St. Cedd expanded his portfolio by founding the abbey at Lastingham and becoming the abbot thereof.

St. Cedd’s three brothers assisted in this founding.  Caelin, a court chaplain, arranged for the royal donation of land.  St. Cedd started a forty-day-long fast to purify the site of the monastery prior to construction.  He held up well until the twenty-ninth day.  St. Cynibil took up the fast on the thirtieth day.  St. Cedd recalled his other brother, St. Chad, from Ireland to help with the founding also.

St. Cynibil lived as a monk at Lastingham until 664, when he died of plague.

Ss. Cedd and Chad attended the Synod of Whitby (664) and accepted its result.  Rome and its customs were supreme.  St. Cedd died of plague on October 26, 664, during a visit to the monastery at Lastingham.  St. Chad succeeded him as abbot.

That year St. Chad became the Bishop of the Northumbrians, with his seat at York.  There was already a bishop-designate, St. Wilfrid (lived 634-709), but, for political reasons, King Oswiu of Northumbria (reigned 642-670) chose St. Chad.  St. Wilfrid, ordained in France, arrived to find a rival claimant to his see.  The resolution of this dispute fell to the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus.

SAINT VITALIAN, BISHOP OF ROME (DIED JANUARY 27, 672), AND THEODORE OF TARSUS (CIRCA 602-SEPTEMBER 19, 690)

St. Vitalian

Above:  St. Vitalian

Image in the Public Domain

Historical records tell us little regarding the early life of St. Vitalian.  We do know that his birthplace was Segni, near Rome, and that his father’s name was Anastasius.  Those records are mostly silent regarding the saint’s life prior to becoming the Pope.

St. Vitalian’s papacy started on July 30, 657, and ended with his death on January 27, 672.  His predecessor was St. Eugene I (reigned 654-657), a man with a conciliatory spirit, especially regarding the Eastern Roman Empire and the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  St. Vitalian succeeded where St. Eugene I could not; he restored good relations between the Holy See and Constantinople.  Later during his papacy St. Vitalian found an opening (due to internal politics in Constantinople) to insist on what was not previously politically feasible:  an unambiguous statement that Jesus had two wills–not one or three.  Closer to home, St. Vitalian established the singing school at the Lateran to train singers for the new, more elaborate papal rites.

St. Vitalian sought to fill the vacant See of Canterbury.  Deusdedit (reigned 655-664) had died.  The see remained vacant for four years.  Twice St. Vitalian asked St. Adrian (of Canterbury), who declined, claiming to be unworthy.  St. Adrian, a native of northern Africa, had become the Abbot of Narida, Naples, at a young age.  He was indeed an accomplished, capable, and humble man.  Wighard, Archbishop-designate from 666, died of plague in 667.

Theodore of Tarsus

Above:  Theodore of Tarsus

Image in the Public Domain

Finally the Holy Father found his man in Theodore of Tarsus (circa 602-690).  Theodore was a native of Tarsus, Cilicia, Asia Minor, the hometown of St. Paul the Apostle.  He was also a learned monk who had fled his home region because of Islamic conquests in the Eastern Roman Empire.  In 667 Theodore lived in an Eastern Rite monastic community at Rome.  He was also in the sixties.  Theodore had many miles to go before he slept, however.  On March 26, 668, at Rome, St. Vitalian consecrated him the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Pope sent St. Adrian (of Canterbury) and St. Benedict Biscop with him to England.  These three men–Theodore of Tarsus, St. Adrian of Canterbury, and St. Benedict Biscop–left positive and long-term legacies in England.

THEODORE OF TARSUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY (668-690)

England in 700 CE

Above:  England in 700 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Theodore of Tarsus was among the most important Archbishops of Canterbury.  He arrived in England in May 669 to find a divided Church, for the Synod of Whitby (664) by which the Roman Catholic Church took over the Celtic Church, remained controversial.  Kingdoms divided the island further.  He had much work to do to create a sense of unity.

Immediately the Archbishop addressed the dispute regarding Ss. Chad and Wilfrid.  He deposed St. Chad, declared his consecration irregular and therefore null, and installed St. Wilfrid.  St. Chad took this well and with humility, declaring that he had never thought himself worthy of the office anyway.  Then he returned to the abbey at Lastingham.  This humility impressed Theodore, who re-consecrated him and made him the Bishop of the Mercians and the Lindsey People, with the seat of the see at York.  From 669 to 672 St. Chad fulfilled his duties faithfully.  He died of plague at Lichfield on March 2, 672.  Among his eventual successors was St. Wilfrid, who served in the post from 691 to 709.

Theodore of Tarsus left his mark on the English Church.  He filled vacant sees, created new dioceses, and reorganized the Church.  Along the way he became a party to disputes, including one with St. Wilfrid, whose Northumbrian diocese he divided.  The Archbishop, being a human being, could never please all of the people all of the time, but he did win widespread respect.  The Venerable Bede wrote that Theodore was “the first archbishop whom all the English obeyed.”  Theodore died at Canterbury on September 19, 690.  He was 88 years old.

SAINT ADRIAN OF CANTERBURY IN ENGLAND

Gaul in 628 C.E.

Above:  Gaul in 628 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Theodore of Tarsus collaborated with St. Adrian of Canterbury (died January 9, 710).  St. Adrian, whom some sources list as St. Hadrian, arrived in England in 671.  Ebroin, the perfidious Mayor of the Palace in Neustria, in Merovingian France, detained St. Adrian for about two years.  The Mayor of the Palace claimed that the saint was on a secret mission for the Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II (reigned 641-668).  Of course our saint was not on any such mission.  Furthermore, Ebroin’s timing was bad, even considering the fact that news traveled more slowly in the 600s than it does in 2015.  Constans II died under suspicious circumstances on July 15, 668.  But who needs facts, right?  Eventually Ebroin released St. Adrian.

The Archbishop of Canterbury appointed St. Adrian the Abbot of Ss. Peter and Paul’s, Canterbury, in 671, succeeding St. Benedict Biscop.  St. Adrian advised and assisted Theodore of Tarsus in bringing liturgical unity to the English Church.  The abbot, a well-educated man, made the School of Canterbury the center of learning in England and established other institutions of learning in England.  From these schools emerged scholars and missionaries who renewed church life in England, France, and Germany.

SAINT CUTHBERT OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 635-687)

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne also helped to bring peace to the English Church after the Synod of Whitby (664).  He was probably a native of the environs of Melrose, for, as a young person, he tended sheep near the monastery there.  In 651, when fifteen or sixteen years old, St. Cuthbert reported a vision upon the event of the death of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne.  The young man claimed to have seen angels carrying St. Aidan’s soul to Heaven.  This experience prompted St. Cuthbert to join the monastery at Melrose that year.  There he remained until 664 when St. Eata (died October 26, 686), the Abbot of Melrose from 651 to 678 (and a protegé of St. Aidan), sent St. Cuthbert to Lindisfarne to introduce Roman Catholic customs there.  He also evangelized effectively and demonstrated a strong devotion to the Mass, for he could not celebrate it without tears.  In 676, with permission from the Abbot of Lindisfarne, St. Cuthbert became a hermit and began to deepen his contemplative life.  His first hermitage was the site known today as St. Cuthbert’s Cave.  St. Cuthbert’s’ long-term hermitage was a site on Farne Island, however.

Circumstances removed St. Cuthbert from Farne Island briefly.  In 686 Church officials persuaded him to succeed St. Eata (Bishop of Lindisfarne from 678 to 685 then Bishop of Hexham from 685 to 686) as Bishop of Lindisfarne.  St. Cuthbert’s episcopate was brief.  At Christmas 686 he, knowing that he was dying, resigned and returned to Farne Island.  He died there on March 20, 687.

CONCLUSION

The legacies of these nine saints (not all of them canonized) echo down the corridors of time.  These were foundational figures.  I, as a Christian and, more specifically, an Episcopalian, stand on their shoulders.  These men built up and renewed the Church, to which I belong.

The work of building up and renewing the Church is never finished.  This is especially true in the global West, where much of Christianity is declining and pockets of it are falling into frightened fundamentalism and hateful phobias targeted at people.  Between the extremes of the right (where too much is literal and fixed) and the left (where too much is metaphorical and relative) one finds a middle way of truth and of love for God without denying tolerance, intellectualism, and science.  That broad path of faithful union of healthy spirituality with secular knowledge and respect for the dignity of those who are different also exists in Christian tradition.  It is the best way forward for the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

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Almighty God, we praise you, for your servants

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne,

Caelin,

St. Cedd of Lastingham,

St. Cynibil of Lastingham,

St. Chad of Mercia,

St. Vitalian,

St. Adrian of Canterbury,

Theodore of Tarsus, and

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church,

and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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4 responses to “Feast of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, Caelin, St. Cedd of Lastingham, St. Cynibil of Lastingham, St. Chad of Mercia, St. Vitalian, St. Adrian of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, and St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (March 2)

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