On this day: Aidan of Lindisfarne

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Aidan.

"Aidan, Columcille's beloved disciple and first abbot of Lindisfarne, has far better claim than Augustine of Canterbury to the title Apostle of England,"

--How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill, Nan A. Talese, 1995, page 200.

The Independent ran an article in 2008 suggesting that St. Aidan be Britain's patron saint, instead of St. George: "Home-Grown Holy Man: Cry God for Harry, Britain and . . . St Aidan."

The book described in the article is Believing in Britain: The Spiritual Identity of 'Britishness', by Ian Bradley, I. B. Tauris, 2007.

From "Lindisfarne: A Brief History and Virtual Tour," by Dr. Deborah Vess:

"Lindisfarne was founded when King Oswald of Northumbria asked monks from Iona to found a monastery there. Corman was the first monk to come; he found the Anglo-Saxons to be barbarians, and resistant to conversion. One of his brethren, Aidan, told him that 'it seems, brother, that you have been too hard on your ignorant hearers. You should have followed the practice of the Apostles, and begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching until little by little, as they were nourished on the Word of God, they grew capable of greater understanding.' He got the job."

"Aidan came to Lindisfarne in 635 and became the first Bishop of Northumbria (then known as Bernicia). Aidan was a worker, and not one for spectacular visionary experiences. Bede wrote that, 'his life is in marked contrast to the apathy of our times. He gave his clergy an inspiring example of self-discipline and continence, and the highest recommendation of his teaching to all was that he and his followers lived as they taught. He never sought or cared for worldly possessions, and loved to give away whatever he received from kings or wealthy folk. Whether in town or country, he always traveled on foot, unless compelled by necessity to ride, and whenever he met anyone, high or low, he stopped and spoke to them. If they were heathen, he urged them to be baptized; and if they were Christians, he strengthened their faith and inspired them by word and deed to live a good life and be generous to others. Aidan cultivated peace and love, purity and humility; he was above anger and greed and despised pride and conceit. He set himself to keep and teach the laws of God, and was diligent in study and in prayer. He used his priestly authority to check the proud and the powerful; he tenderly comforted the sick he relieved and protected the poor. I greatly admire and love all these things about Aidan, because I have no doubt that they are pleasing to God.'"

St. Aidan, who was of the same family as St. Brigid of Kildare, lived on Scattery Island in the Shannon before joining the monastery at Iona. He took the rules and methods he had learned from St. Senan and from St. Columcille and applied them to the monks and students at Lindisfarne.

King Oswald, who had spent his youth in Ireland and was fluent in Irish, accompanied Aidan on his visits to the pagan Anglo-Saxons and interpreted for him. "The rough peasants and soldiers no longer turned a deaf ear to religion, for they heard it taught with so much love and sweet reasonableness that they grew loving and reasonable themselves. King Oswald and the Bishop worked together as close friends".

--"St. Aidan, Bishop, 651," in The Little Lives of the Saints, by Percy Dearmer, 1904.

Oswald died in 642, and Aidan died on August 31, 651, "Northumberland's first and greatest bishop."

Click here for images of St. Aidan.

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