Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Feast, 5 August; Oswald of Northumbria

Oswald was the King of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in the early seventh century. Convinced that Christianity was the true faith he called to the great abbey at Iona in the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada for an Apostle to come and preach the gospel to the Northumbrians. The first monk to come from Iona was unsuccessful with his manner of teaching to produce any new followers. So Oswald sent for another monk called Aidan, who established an Abbey at Lindisfarne, a few miles north of Oswald's residence at Bamburgh, from which he was successful in several missions to convert the locals. Here Aidan became bishop, and a close friend of Oswald's. At one point, after Oswald had given the food from his own table to the poor who waited outside the royal fortress, Aidan said to him that his hands were blessed and would not perish. The hands were preserved in a reliquary for hundreds of years, fulfiling the prophecy by remaining in-corrupted. Finally in 642 in the battle of Maserfield, between the Christian Northumbrians and the Pagan Mercians lead by the King Penda, Oswald was slain while praying for the souls of his soldiers. Afterward they laid his body (which had been mutilated by the pagans) in a nearby Church, where it was said to give off light in the night's darkness. His head was later buried with the body of St. Cuthbert where it remains in the tomb of that Saint at Durham Cathedral. Above is Cuthbert with the head of St. Oswald.

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