On March 1st the Church remembers a saint who is notable for nothing spectacular…and in that, he is worth remembering: Saint George Herbert, Parish Priest and Poet.
George Herbert was born at the end of the 16th Century in Montgomery Castle. Raised by his mother (who was friends with the influential John Donne), he was handsome, witty and a wonderful scholar.
Befitting his skills, he entered Parliament but found political life to be, well, unsatisfying. Having befriended Nicholas Ferrar and the Little Gidding community, he took up studying Divinity and became a deacon of the church in short order.
In April of 1630 St. Herbert was instituted as the rector of the (very British-ly named) St. Peter’s Fugglestone, and also St. Andrew, Bemerton. These yoked parishes were small and full of salt-of-the-earth folks who not only loved “holy Mr. Herbert,” but received his tender care and attention, too.
Though his congregations were largely illiterate, he took to teaching them with fervor. The Mass, the Catechism, hymns, and spiritual songs, St. Herbert relished these people and they, him, often putting down their work tools at morning and evening when the bells tolled, knowing that St. Herbert would be in prayer (and they joined him from the blacksmith shop, the field, and the wash basin).
Unfortunately St. George was plagued with ill health his whole life, and on March 1st in 1633 he died of consumption and was buried under the altar at St. Andrew parish.
His poetry was published shortly after his death by his friend, Ferrar, under the instructions to publish them if they were any good, but burn them if they were lacking.
They were published and are considered 17th Century British works of art.
St. George Herbert is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes just doing your work with care and attention is laudable enough. I still contend that the best sermons on a Sunday morning are heard by less than fifty people.
-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations