Wednesday, April 12, 2023

St. Cuthbert

After the conversion to Christianity of King Edwin of Northumbria in 627 CE, his people followed suit. About 634, Cuthbert was born to a well-to-do family. His life as a Christian would have experienced the conflicts between Roman Christianity and Celtic Christianity. Whereas Edwin was baptized by Paulinus of York, part of the Gregorian mission from Rome, Edwin's successor, Oswald, invited Irish monks from Iona. The Irish monks, whose leader was Aidan, founded the monastery at Lindisfarne. Cuthbert grew up near Melrose Abbey, a daughter house of Lindisfarne.

The night of Aidan's death (651), Cuthbert had a vision that inspired him to become a monk. He advanced quickly, starting at a new monastery at Ripon, then becoming prior at Melrose Abbey in 662, followed in 665 by becoming prior at Lindisfarne. He was made a bishop in 684, but when nearing the end of his life he resigned that position.

Despite his exposure to Celtic Christianity for much of his youth, after the Synod of Whitby he had no trouble following the Roman system, bringing it to Lindisfarne when he was prior.

His reputation for piety and asceticism drew much attention, and he had many visitors despite his preference for a quiet life. He performed missionary work all over northern Britain. He was known for generosity to the poor and for performing miracles of healing, earning him the title "Wonder Worker of Britain." Bede wrote that he was buried in a stone sarcophagus to the right of the altar at the church in Lindisfarne; when the sarcophagus was moved behind the altar 11 years later (a more prestigious position), it was opened; his body was  found perfectly preserved, "uncorrupted," a sign of his sainthood. This brought more pilgrims to Lindisfarne, and prompted many in need to pray for his intercession.

Lindisfarne, however, was not going to be Cuthbert's final resting place. He was going to be moved a few times due to Viking invasions, which I'll talk about next time. 

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