Today the church remembers a visionary 7th Century Celtic saint who vacillated between solitude and society: Saint Cuthbert, Bishop, Bird -Watcher, and Shepherd.
Saint Cuthbert was born in the year 625 somewhere in Northubmria (modernly you’d call that North England/Southern Scotland, right where the British accent gets super wonky). He was a shepherd in his first life, and according to the Venerable Bede had a vision while tending sheep that angels were ushering a soul into heaven. It just so happened that Saint Aiden had died that same night, and good Saint Cuthbert took that as a sign that he should replace the monastic roles now empty of that one memorable member.
Saint Cuthbert became a monk at Melrose soon after, and he was known as a kind and dedicated monastic. He eventually became abbot of that monastery just as the plague spread across Briton, and Saint Cuthbert took to the streets, making visits and cheering spirits at great personal risk.
In 664 he became prior of Lindisfarne (also called Holy Island) in North East England, but eventually felt the call to a solitary life and settled on a nearby island to live as a hermit for nine years.
In 684 he was once again called back into society as the Bishop of Northumbria, a seat he reluctantly took. Shortly after accepting the miter, though, he felt death coming toward him and withdrew back to his small hermitage to die in peace on this date in 687.
Fun fact: his bones were found a century later in 1827. His remains had been removed from Farne due to Viking raids and he was put to rest in Durham cathedral. An excavation that year uncovered his bones beneath the site of a medieval shrine dedicated to him.
Saint Cuthbert was not only known for his kindness to humans, but he was also known as an avid birder, being quite observant of the beasts of the air (and feeling a kinship with them). Even monks need a hobby, right?
Saint Cuthbert is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes we’re called to be and do different things in this life. Cuthbert was a shepherd, then a monk, then a hermit, then a bishop, and then retreated back into solitude…all were holy callings.
Different things at different times: all holy. Kind of makes you rethink that whole “mid-life crisis” thing, right? Perhaps it’s less a crisis and just a new calling.
Let those with ears to hear, hear.
-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-icon written by the dear saints at Mull Monastery (www.mullmonastery.com). I found fascinating and engaging icons written here that will delight and inspire!