Today the church remembers a 7th Century defender of those on the margins: Saint Egwin of Evesham, Friend of Widows and orphans.
Saint Egwin was the descendant of royalty in his day, a relative of Mercian queens and kings. He was born in Worcester (look to your fridge for the appropriate pronunciation of that term) and was elevated to Bishop after 693 A.D.
As a bishop, though, he came into conflict with those he was given charge over. He was a fierce defender of widows and orphans, believing the scriptures paid special attention to those forgotten by humanity, and sought monetary aid for them from the populace. His strict understanding of these things, along with clergy piety, created some resentment amongst the Brits. They sought to vacate his bishopric.
He took a pilgrimage to seek vindication from the Pope himself and, in piety he thought fitting for the journey, was said to shackle himself and throw the key into the River Avon. He’d make the journey in chains.
In the Alps his company came upon extreme thirst without a fresh water source. Some in his troupe turned mockingly to the pious bishop, entreating him to ask for a water source as Moses did in the wilderness. Still, others in his company trusted in him and encouraged the prayers. It is said that he prostrated himself and, at his bequest, a gushing river came forth giving nourishment for his people.
A suspicious but fun tale.
As he reached the zenith of his pilgrimage, praying at the Tomb of the Apostles in Rome, it is said that one of his servants brought him a key contained in the belly of a fish caught in the Tiber River. That key, it is said, unlocked the bishop’s chains, ensuring the Pope would grant his request to stay in his holy see.
Upon his return to England he founded Evasham Abbey, dedicating it to Mary, the Mother of our Lord. It is said that he died on this day in 717.
Saint Egwin is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes the pastors most loved before they take their role become those who are despised by folks who think they should act differently…
But the call won’t allow them to act differently.
Let those with ears to hear, hear.
-historical bits from common sources
-icon found in St. Lawrence church in Evesham, England, by Geoffrey Webb in 1943.