Archive for the ‘St. Dunstan of Canterbury’ Tag

Feast of St. Alphege (April 19)   1 comment

Above:  St. Alphege

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALPHEGE (953-1012)

Archbishop of Canterbury, and Martyr, 1012

The Feast of St. Alphege comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints and Holy Days via Roman Catholic and Anglican calendars.

St. Alphege, or Aelfheah, was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to wear the crown of martyrdom.  He, from a noble family, entered Deerfield Abbey, Gloucestershire.  During ensuing years our saint was a monk, an anchorite, and the abbot at Bath Abbey.  In 984 St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 t0 988, secured St. Alphege’s appointment as Bishop of Winchester.  Our saint, an effective bishop, supervised an effective system of caring for the poor.  He also negotiated a peace treaty with the recently baptized Norse King Olaf Tryggvason in 994.  Eleven years later St. Alphege succeeded to the See of Canterbury.  In 1011 Danish forces captured him.  Our saint refused to permit the collection of a large ransom from the over-burdened population.  So it came to pass that, after several months, his captors executed him in 1012.

Archbishop of Canterbury St. Anselm, whom St. Alphege had mentored, argued for the definition of our saint’s death as a form of martyrdom.  To die for the sake of justice, St. Anselm contended, is to die as a martyr.

Pope Gregory VII canonized St. Alphege in 1078.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA

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O loving God, your martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death

when he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people:

Grant that all pastors of your flock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd,

who laid down this life for the sheep; and who with you and the

Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Samuel 24:7b-19

Psalm 49:1-9

Philemon 1-9a

Luke 23:1-9

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 333

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Feast of St. Dunstan of Canterbury (May 19)   1 comment

Glastonbury Abbey, 1890

Above:  Ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, 1890

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-08401

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SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY (909-MAY 19, 988)

Abbot of Glastonbury and Archbishop of Canterbury

St. Dunstan of Canterbury lived and worked in a political context different from that of the modern Western world.  Ideas such as constitutional government and the separation of church and state were foreign to the England of the 900s.  The Magna Carta, hardly the most democratic of documents, was centuries away, as was the concept that the monarch should not play an active role in ecclesiastical affairs.  Indeed, the United Kingdom has adopted religious toleration yet not the separation of church and state in contemporary times.

St. Dunstan, born in Baltonsborough in 909, came from a West Saxon noble family.  He studied at Glastonbury Abbey, where he learned music composition, painting, and mechanical arts, in which he was proficient.  Our saint, as a young man, entered the service of Athelstan, King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 then King of the English from 927 to 939.  Petty jealousies in the royal court led to our saint’s exile from it.  False allegations of practicing the black arts constituted the pretext for the exile; violent intimidation enforced it.

At this point St. Dunstan’s life took a crucial turn.  He found refuge with a relative, Alphege, who served as the Bishop of Winchester from 934/935 to 951.  Our saint, recovering from an attack of brain fever, became a monk and began to live as a hermit.

In time St. Dunstan’s life intersected with royalty again.  King Edmund I (reigned 939-946) appointed him the royal treasurer.  During the reign (946-955) of Edred our saint was the de facto ruler of the kingdom, governing ably and well.  These duties overlapped with St. Dunstan’s job as the Abbot of Glastonbury (starting in 943).  In that capacity our saint made the abbey school famous and renewed monastic life.  Edred’s successor was Edwy (reigned 955-959), whose incestuous marriage St. Dunstan denounced.  Our saint spent his exile (955-957) in Flanders.  A rebellion among the Mercians and the Northumbrians made Edgar a rival monarch in 957-959 before he ruled as sole King of the English (959-975).  Edgar recalled St. Dunstan and appointed him Bishop of Worcester (957-959), Bishop of London (958-960), and Archbishop of Canterbury (960-988), as well as a royal advisor.

St. Dunstan made his mark as Archbishop of Canterbury.  He replaced married and other non-celibate priests with monks when possible.  Our saint also reformed monasticism strictly according to the Rule of St. Benedict, rebuilt churches, and promoted education.  His time as archbishop overlapped with the reign of King Edward the Martyr (reigned 975-978), the cause of death was murder.  St. Dunstan retired shortly after participating in the coronation of Ethelred II the Unready (reigned 978-1013 and 1014-1016).  England descended into political chaos despite St. Dunstan’s best efforts during the preceding decades to improve the kingdom.

St. Dunstan enjoyed a quiet and productive retirement.  He lived in Canterbury, where he taught at the cathedral school, painted, composed music, made musical instruments, founded bells, and practiced calligraphy.  He died on May 19, 988.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER VIETS GRISWOLD, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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O God of truth and beauty, you richly endowed your bishop Dunstan

with skill in music and the working of metals,

and with gifts of administration and reforming zeal:

Teach us, we pray, to see you in the source of all our talents,

and move us to offer them for the adornment of worship

and the advancement of true religion,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Job 1:6-8

Psalm 57:6-11

Ephesians 5:15-20

Matthew 24:42-47

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 377

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