October 11, 2017

Saint Wilfrid, Bishop and Missionary

Saint Wilfrid

Optional Memorial - October 12th

This 7th century English saint was influential at a time when Rome, seeking to unite all Christians under the see of Saint Peter, was undergoing conflict with the traditions of the so-called “Celtic” Church. A Northumbrian of noble birth, Saint Wilfrid was educated at Lindisfarne where he was instilled with a passion for both learning and the monastic life. He was known for his holiness and love of God.

St. Wilfrid was born in the year 634 in the ancient region known as Northumbria, a medieval Anglian kingdom located in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland. A conflict with his stepmother resulted in his leaving home at the age of 14. He eventually became a monk at the Celtic monastery of Lindisfarne. While still a young man he traveled to Canterbury and then to Rome. On his return to England, he founded monasteries at Ripon and Stamford, and would soon became prominent as a successful defender of the Church's teachings.

A dispute emerged between the Roman and Celtic traditions over the proper dating of the Solemnity of Easter. Wilfrid became convinced that the Church in England should conform itself to the observances of Rome, as duly established and decried at the Synod of Whitby in 644 (which Wilfrid attended). Wilfrid’s allegiance to Rome, however, would result in his persecution and eventual exile from his own bishopric in York, to which he had been appointed in 669.

He was falsely accused of having forged the pope's bull and was thrown into prison, then released and exiled. Wilfrid spent his exile engaged in missionary work in both England and modern-day Holland. Eventually vindicated, Wilfrid is remembered chiefly for bringing the Church in England into closer allegiance with Rome and efforts promoting the Rule of Saint Benedict in English monasteries. St. Wilfrid was truly one of the most versatile and accomplished men of his day. He was a profound former of souls as well as constructing physical monasteries.

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