Christ is the chief shepherd, the leader of his flock: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
Saint Erconwald [or Erkenwald] was born at “Stallyngeton in Lindsey” (possibly Stallingborough, near Grimsby) in the early seventh century. His father is variously described as Anna or Offa, king of East Anglia, and a pagan. Erconwald was converted to Christianity at an early age by St Mellitus, the companion of Augustine and first Bishop of London. He then converted his younger sister Ethelburga and baptised her, much to the fury of their father. Ethelburga eventually fled her parents’ home with one servant to escape being forced into marriage with a pagan.
In the year 666 Erconwald founded the monastery of Chertsey, on an island in the Thames, apparently at the junction of several kingdoms. It is described as being founded in the reign of King Egbert, King of Kent; the foundation was confirmed, and richly endowed, by Frithwald, viceroy of Surrey, under Wulfhere King of Mercia. The Viceroy put himself and his son under obedience to Erconwald in return for prayers. Wulfhere confirmed this endowment. There is a further charter of Frithwald and Erconwald, to increase the lands of the monastery: the “Limites Terrarum” describes lands in Chertsey, Thorpe, Egham and adjacent parishes now attached to the monastery.
Shortly after this Erconwald founded a convent at Barking in Essex, intended to be a refuge for his sister Ethelburga. The foundation charter, countersigned by Hodilred, King of Essex, provides us with a specimen of the saint’s handwriting. In the course of building the house at Barking one beam was found to be too short, and was pulled out to the correct length by Erconwald and his sister.
Erconwald remained as Abbot of Chertsey until 675 when he was consecrated third Bishop of London by St Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. St Erconwald appears to have been the first resident bishop, and probably began the building of St Paul’s, although traditionally this was adapted from a pagan temple of old Londinium. In 677 he visited Rome, and obtained a number of privileges for his diocese and monastery from Pope Agatho I.
During his time as Bishop, Erconwald became noted for miracles and for evangelization. He instructed St Neot, afterwards of Crowland Abbey, and the two Kings of Essex, Sebbi and Sigheri, the former of whom afterwards became a hermit in St Paul’s under Erconwald’s successor Waldhere.
In 690 Erconwald was summoned, together with St Wilfrid, to the deathbed of St Theodore. Both ministered to him, but Theodore was more concerned to speak to Wilfrid, whom he wished to succeed him. In 692 King Ine of Wessex mentions his “father Erconwald” who assisted him in codifying the Laws of Wessex.
Thus Erconwald is associated with the Kings of East Anglia, Mercia, Essex, Wessex and Kent, all of whom seem to have had interests centering in the Chertsey area. The King of Sussex, Æthelwealh, was godson to Wulfhere of Mercia, so six of the Seven Kingdoms are involved in his story.
Towards the end of his life Erconwald was confined to a wheelchair, about which many stories are told. On one occasion a raging river parted to allow the Saint to cross in his chair; on another one wheel fell off but the chair miraculously did not upset. After his death many miracles of healing were worked by the same wheelchair.
In 693 Brithwald, Archbishop of Canterbury, consecrated Waldhere as fourth Bishop of London, so it seems likely that Erconwald died in that year, on 30th April. He died while on retreat at Barking Abbey, and there was the usual unseemly dispute over who should have the burying of him, between Barking, Chertsey and London. The Canons of St Paul’s prevailed, and despite a last-ditch attempt by the nuns of Barking, succeeded in capping their miracle with a greater. (The nuns prayed for rain to swell the river at Ilford to make it impossible for the cortege to cross, and to extinguish the candles, but the men of London persuaded the candles to relight, and the river to part again so that they crossed dry-shod.) Despite all this he was buried in a common earthen grave where he remained until 1087 when a fire destroyed the cathedral and everything in it except the coffin containing his remains. These were then translated to a splendid new shrine behind the high altar, where they remained right up to the Great Fire of 1666, despite the depredations of the Reformation. He was venerated throughout the Middle Ages.
|In other years: St Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1578 - 1622)|
He was born in Sigmaringen in Germany. He joined the Capuchin Friars at the age of 35 and led a harsh life of prayer and vigils. An assiduous preacher, he was ordered by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to preach orthodox doctrine in the Grisons (part of Switzerland). He was murdered by a Calvinist mob at Seewis on 24 April 1622. See the articles in the Catholic Encyclopaedia
|In other years: St Adalbert of Prague (956 - 997)|(His name is Vojtech in Czech and Wojciech in Polish).
He became bishop of Prague in 983. He met with intense opposition from the nobility. He withdrew to Rome but was sent back to his diocese by Pope John XV. He encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and founded the great abbey of Brevnov, but the opposition continued and he was at length forced into exile. He went as a missionary to Pomerania to preach the Gospel to the heathen Prussians, and it was there that he was martyred at the age of 41. See the articles in Wikipedia
and the Catholic Encyclopaedia
|Other saints: Saint Egbert (639-729)|
Argyll & the Isles
Ecgberht was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman, probably from Northumbria. In his youth he travelled to Ireland in 664, to study. One of his acquaintances at this time was Chad. He settled at the monastery of Rathelmigisi (Rathmelsigi). His Northumbrian traveling companions, including Æthelhun, died of the plague, and he contracted it as well. He vowed that if he recovered he would become a peregrinus, on perpetual pilgrimage from his homeland of Britain, and would lead a life of penitential prayer and fasting. He was then 25, and when he recovered he kept his vow until his death at the age of 90.
He began to organize monks in Ireland to proselytize in Frisia, in what is now north-western Germany. Many other high-born notables were associated with his work: Saint Adalbert, Saint Swithbert, and Saint Chad.
He had influential contacts with the kings of Northumbria and of the Picts, as well as with Iona, which he persuaded to adopt the Roman dating of Easter. He became bishop of Lindisfarne. He died on the first day that the Easter feast was observed on this date in his monastery, on 24 April 729.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Peter Chrysologus (380 - 450)|
Peter was born and died in Imola in northern Italy. He was made bishop of Ravenna, the new capital of the Roman Empire, and was responsible for many of the building works there. The name “Chrysologus” means “golden speech”, and was given to Peter because he was such a gifted preacher; unfortunately, most of his writings have perished, and only a collection of short sermons remains.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Acts 4:11-12 ©|
This Jesus is ‘the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone.’ For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.
|Noon reading (Sext)||(1 Peter 3:21-22) ©|
Now you are saved by baptism. This is not the washing off of physical dirt but a pledge made to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Colossians 3:1-2 ©|
Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth.