Saturday, May 23, 2009

A story about St. Cuthbert, via Ss. Augustine and Bede

I was looking ahead on the calendar today, (I was supposed to be a a birthday party but Basil Wenceslas and I have colds) and I noticed that the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. A.D. 605), the Father of the English Church is near on the horizon. That got me to thinking about the English Church, and then I remembered that I have a copy of the Venerable Bede's* (A.D. 672-735)* "The Ecclesiastical History of the English People". So I got it down from a high plank, opened it, and seemingly at random, my eye fell on this passage about St. Cuthbert (d. A.D. 651)...
There was in the monastery a brother named Baduthegn, who is still alive and who for a long time had acted as guest-master. It is the testimony of all the brothers and the guests who visited there that he was a man of great piety and devotion, who carried out his appointed duties solely for the sake of his heavenly reward. One Day, after had been down to the sea, washing the blankets and coverings which were used in the guest-house, he was seized on the way back with a sudden pain so that he fell ill to the ground and lay there prone for a long time, only rising again with difficulty. As he rose, he felt one side of his body was afflicted with paralysis from head to foot, and it was only with great effort that he reached home, leaning on a stick. The disease gradually increased...In his affliction he conceived the wise plan of going to the church as best he could, making his way to the tomb of the reverend Father Cuthbert**; there on bended knees, he intended humbly to beseech the mercy of the Lord so that he might either be delivered from his disease, if this were good for him, or if the divine grace decreed that he must endure so great an affliction still longer, that he might bear the pain that was laid upon him with patience and a quiet mind. He did as he had planned and, supporting his weak limbs with a staff, he entered the church and prostrated himself before the body of the man of God, praying with devout fervour that the Lord, through Cuthbert's intercession, would be propitious to him. While he was yet praying he seemed to fall in to a deep sleep and, as he afterwards used to relate, he felt a great broad hand touch his head where the pain lay; the touch also passed over all that part of his body which had been afflicted by disease, right down to his feet; slowly the pain fled and health was restored. After this he quickly awoke and rose up completely cured. He gave thanks to God for his recovery and told his brothers what had happened to him; to the joy of them all he returned to the office which he had been accustomed to fulfill so faithfully, yet still more purified and chastened as though by a scourge. The garments too, which had covered the body of Cuthbert while he was alive and after his death, did not lack the grace of healing, as anyone who reads my find in the book of his life and miracles.

*St. Bede is the person who invented footnotes. Really. Also, his name means prayer and was given to the little thing we call the bead, as in prayer beads.

** St. Cuthbert's coffin and other burial items are housed at Durham Cathedral, Northumbria, which was built specifically to house St. Cuthberts relics in the 11th century.

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