But First, Love

Today the church remembers a wonderful 7th Century Celtic Saint, Saint Aidan, Friendly Bishop and Quiet Firebrand.

In St. Aidan’s day the British Isles were considered to be mostly Christianized, but the stubborn island of Ireland was proving to be a difficult people to convert. As keepers of an older way, the Irish were amenable to many parts of Roman Catholicism except for the whole “obedience” thing.

Nevertheless, at the turn of the 7th Century the church decided to try its hand again at bringing the faith to the Irish. The little monastery founded by St. Columba on Iona housed a number of native Irish monks, and rather than send British or Roman missionaries to the Irish people, it was deemed wise to send Irish monks to serve them and share the Gospel.

This was smart.

St. Aidan had been quite critical of the methods previously used by Roman missionaries toward his people, and though his name means “little fiery one” in Gaelic, he entered the mission field with humility and a genuine love for the Northumbrians, of whom he was now appointed as Bishop.

In the way that the Celts were known for doing, he melded the ancient rituals and beliefs of the Celts with Christianity to create a more wholistic way of practicing the faith. He chose the island of Lindisfarne as the perfect place to build a cathedral, and from these emerald-hued hills began meeting with towns people across Ireland, taking a keen interest in their lives and gently ingratiating himself to them.

Aidan thought conversion happened best by wooing, not warring with words. He was relentlessly friendly, and founded a number of schools and hospitals to serve the children of Ireland. He was particularly concerned for orphans and those trapped in slavery. In fact, he bought the freedom of many slaves, using church offerings to pay off those who held them captive.

St. Aidan died on one of his many missionary endeavors, having fallen ill visiting his beloved people. The legend goes that on August 31st in 651, he stopped, took a breather leaning against the wall of the local church in Bamburgh, and simply fell over.

St. Aidan is a reminder to me, and should be for the whole church, that for any message to be heard, genuine love must first be shown.

-icon written by Anatoli
-historical bits gleaned from various sources, including Koenig-Bricker’s 365 Saints