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Feast of St. William of Roskilde (September 2)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Realm of King Canute the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE (DIED 1067/1074)

English-Danish Roman Catholic Bishop

Danish kings used to rule Norway.  For a time a few of them also governed England.  In 1013 Sweyn I Forkbeard (reigned 985-1014) conquered England.  He died six weeks later. In the political chaos that ensued, Canute the Great (reigned 1014-1035) returned to Denmark, the Anglo-Saxon king Aethelred the Unready ( really poorly advised, not unready; reigned 978-1013, 1014-1016), and returned from exile to rule again, and Edmund II Ironside (reigned 1016) rebelled against his father Aethelred.  Meanwhile, Canute returned in force in 1015, and reconquered England the following year.  He gave England stability.  After Canute the Great died two sons claimed the English throne and caused chaos for seven years.  The legal heir, was Harthacanute, and Harold Harefoot was the son conceived out-of-wedlock.  Anglo-Saxon rule in England resumed with the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), whose death preceded the Norman Conquest (1066), after the brief usurpation of the throne by Harold II Godwineson.  Normans–Vikings by another name–took over England.

The rest is history.

St. William, an Anglo-Saxon, was a priest, and chaplain to Canute the Great.  Our saint, while visiting Denmark, recognized the need for Christian missionaries in that part of the kingdom, so he volunteered.  Starting in 1044 he served as the Bishop of Roskilde.

King Sweyn II Estridsson (reigned 1047-1076) was a troublesome and contradictory man.  He, one of St. William’s friends, was also a generous patron of the Church.  Unfortunately, he was also a violent man and the father children via his wife and a host of mistresses.  St. William issued an order forbidding all who had shed blood unjustly from receiving sacraments prior to performing public penance.  One New Year’s Eve Sweyn II noticed that some guests and hired men were mocking him behind his back or had done so.  He had them killed in church the following day.  That day, when the monarch and his guards attempted to enter Roskilde Cathedral, St. William, standing alone, risked his life to keep them out.  He confronted Sweyn II, whom he excommunicated on the spot.  The guards drew their weapons to strike down the bishop, but the monarch prevented them from harming him.  St. William proceeded with the liturgy.  Later he noticed that Sweyn II was performing public penance.  The bishop rescinded the excommunication immediately.  Sweyn II was a different man after that.

Pope Honorius III canonized St. William of Roskilde in 1224.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Saint William of Roskilde,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Denmark.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716

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