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Saint Wilfrid

Saint Wilfrid
  • Century: 7th & 8th Century
  • Patronage: Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough
  • Feast Day: October 12th

St. Wilfrid was born in 633, in Northumbrian.  He entered religious life as a teenager, and studied at Lindisfarne, at Canterbury, in Rome.  After his studies, he was ordained a Priest.  He returned to Northumbrian in 660, and became the Abbot of a newly founded Monastery in Ripon.  

In 664, Wilfrid acted as the spokesman for the Roman party, at the Council of Whitby, and became famous for his speech advocating that the Roman method for calculating the date of Easter should be adopted.  His success prompted the King’s son Alhfrith to appoint him Bishop of Northumbria.  Wilfrid chose to be consecrated in Gaul, Rome, and during his absence, Alhfrith was unsuccessful at leading a revolt against his fathers empire.  Before he returned, the King had appointed Ceadda in his place.  When returning and finding this out, Wilfrid retired to Ripon for a few years.   

When Theodore of Tarsus became Archbishop of Canterbury in 668, he resolved the problem and returned Wilfrid back to Northumbria as Bishop. For nearly the next decade, Wilfrid managed his Episcopal duties, founded monasteries, built Churches and improved the Liturgy.  Archbishop Theodore wanted to break up the large diocese into smaller ones, and Wilfred went to Rome to appeal to the Papacy.  Pope Agatho ruled in favor or Wilfrid, but his order was refused.  Wilfred, despite the Papal decree, was imprisoned on his return to Northumbria, and eventually exiled.  

Wilfrid spent he next few years in Selsey, where he founded an Episcopal See, and converted the pagan inhabitants of the Kingdom of Sussex to Christianity. Eventually, Theodore and Wilfrid settled their differences, and Theodore urged the King to allow the return of Wilfrid.  Wilfrid returned, assumed his duties, but was expelled yet again.  He went to Mercia, where he helped missionaries and acted as Bishop for the Mercian King.  

Wilfrid appealed to the Pope, and he again won, regaining his possession of Ripon and Hexham, his Northumbrian monasteries.  Wilfrid died in 709 and after his death he was venerated as a Saint.   In life, he ruled a large number of monasteries, and claimed to be the first Englishman to introduce the Rule of Saint Benedict into English Monasteries.  Modern historians see him mainly as an advocate for monasticism.   

Practical Take Away

St. Wilfrid was a young, faith filled man that studied the faith, and was ordained a Priest.  He went on to be appointed Bishop, but many times, was either cast aside, imprisoned, or exiled to another land. Each time he appealed to Rome and won, and would return, to be cast aside again.  Every time the King changed, the Episcopal duties of Wilfrid would change.  He carried his duties out with pride, and was an advocate of monasticism, and ruled over a large number of monasteries throughout his life.  Among other things, his life shows us that one can make a difference if you stay true to your faith, and follow the will of God.