Community of Saints
"Saints are people who have walked the Way before us, and as such can be seen as our spiritual ancestors. Their stories are those of ordinary individuals seeking Truth in a world of false or partial ‘truths’, much as it is today. They can be related to as figures of history and legend, or as channels of divine energy, or both and more." - Jan Nutall
The St Sigfrid’s Way travels through the lives of many saints who live on in the names of churches and places that we visit along the route. St Sigfrid leads the way, but each saint has a place in our community of saints. This is the wider, less tangible community, within which is nested the more tangible community of pilgrims such as you and I as we walk the pilgrims’ way today.
The presentation of each saint is as legend tells it and does not aspire to strict factual accuracy, something which is usually difficult to achieve for these figures. Some of the aspects of our saints’ stories have historical roots, while other aspects dwell in the imaginal, where history and mystery meet.
Mary is the feminine face of the Christian path. There were three significant Mary's in the life of Jesus; Mother Mary, Mary Magdelene and Mary of Bethany. The roots of the name in the Egyptian language relate to the word for 'Beloved', and in Latin the roots relate to the sea, and can be translated as 'star of the sea'. Mary embodies
love and compassion, she guides followers along the path of the heart.
Mother Mary is often considered to be the first Christian pilgrim through the journey she made to Bethlehem to give birth to Christ.
Mary Magdelene was also a pilgrim after the death of Jesus, as she carried his teachings far and wide, and became a leader of the Way. She is the Apostle to the Apostles.
The Lady Prayer
Our Lady who lives at the Heart of All form,
Hallowed by Thy name
Thy Queendom come
Thy will be done
That Heaven may come to Earth.
Please allow me this day to drink from your Sacred silver Spring,
And forgive me my forgetting,
As I learn through your Grace to return all non-love with Love.
Take me by the hand and lead me step by step into the patient valley of your Heart.
For Yours is the Earth, my body and my Life.
Forever and Ever.
Known as the apostle to Mercia (now the the midlands) Chad was born in Nothumbria in 634, and was one of four brothers all of whom became priests, including St Cedd. He was educated at Lindisfarne under St Aidan who sent him to Ireland to continue his studies. After some misunderstandings he was formally made Bishop of Mercia in 669, making Lichfield his centre of ministry, spending the next four years travelling the huge area with a reputation as someone of unusual humility, gentleness and simplicity of life as well as a priest full of zeal and apostolic gifts. Sadly he died of the plague in 672. Today he is still remembered for his simple life and humility.
from the first fruits of the English nation who turned to Christ,
you called your servant Chad
to be an evangelist and bishop of his own people:
give us grace so to follow his peaceable nature,
humble spirit and prayerful life,
that we may truly commend to others
the faith which we ourselves profess;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
St Birgitta of Sweden
Birgitta, or Bridget, was born in 1303 into a wealthy family in Uppland. She married at the age of fourteen, had eight children and often attended the royal court, where she continued to experience the mystical revelations she had known since childhood. After the death of her husband, her mystical revelations increased in intensity, and she responded by founding a ‘double monastery’ (where monks and nuns lived together) at Vadstena, on the shores of Lake Vättern, in 1346. Birgitta’s daughter Catherine was the first abbess of the Brigettine Order, which enjoyed the generous patronage of King Magnus, and became very influential in northern Europe. After travelling to Rome to obtain the pope’s approval for her plans, Birgitta never returned to Sweden but spent the rest of her life as a pilgrim, an adviser to rulers and church leaders, and a minister to all in need. Her Revelations were recorded by her confessors before her death, which occurred on this day in 1378.
Birgitta's prayer is at the heart of the St Sigfrid's Way:
"God, show me your way and make me willing to walk it."
O God, by whose grace your servant Birgitta of Sweden, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
St john Henry Newman
Once upon a time in the fair city of Oxford, there lived Princess Frideswide who was as good as she was beautiful. The King, her father, ruled the people of his realm with clemency and justice, and she learnt the ways of the Church. The motherless child was tenderly looked after by gentle nuns who taught her to read and write and to play sweet music upon the harp and lyre.
As she grew up, princes from neighbouring kingdoms sought her hand in marriage. The King her father turned them away saying that his daughter was still but a child and too young to wed.
In time however, there came a handsome prince on a fine horse, with his retinue all attired in splendid silks and velvets, and the King listened thoughtfully as he pleaded his suit.
Princess Frideswide herself was alone in her room high in the tower of the castle, but her ladies were listening at the door of the great council chamber, and when they heard the King announce that Frideswide should indeed become the Prince's bride, they hastened to tell her that she was soon to be married. The Princess wept bitter tears, for her one wish was that she might become a nun and devote herself to God, and she vowed that even if she had to disobey her father, no mortal man should ever be her bridegroom. Then she gathered up some food, her missal, and a few belongings, and wrapped in a warm cloak of fur, she slipped out with her ladies in the darkness of night through a small gate in the castle wall, and together they rowed up the river until they came to a tiny hamlet.
Hiding the boat among the reeds of the riverbank, they concealed themselves in a byre among the beasts stabled there, and thus they passed the hours until dawn. They shook with fear as they heard the stamping of many feet and the barking of dogs as the King's soldiers searched for them in the woods by the river, but at last the clamour of pursuit grew fainter and they knew they were safe and could travel onwards. For days and weeks they journeyed, until they happened upon a group of devout women, who asked no questions and gladly gave them shelter, and there it was that Frideswide began to care for the poor and heal the sick.
As time passed, word reached her that her father the King was pining away with sorrow for the loss of her, his only child, and she determined to return to Oxford, come what might. Hardly had she entered the gates of the city than the bells pealed joyously from the spires and steeples, the King rose from his sickbed, and the people sang and danced in the streets.
The news of her return soon came to the ears of the Prince, and he rode swiftly to Oxford to claim the Princess once more for his bride. When she saw him, Frideswide prayed to God for succour. At once there was a terrible clap of thunder, and a bolt of lightning struck the Prince, blinding him. Weeping from his sightless eyes, he pleaded for mercy and forgiveness. Frideswide took pity on him and prayed again, beseeching God to restore his sight but to destroy his desire for her, and at once water gushed forth from a healing spring, and her prayers were answered. The Prince, his sight restored, mounted his charger and wheeling round, galloped away from the city, never to return.
Princess Frideswide's wish to become a nun was fulfilled, and close to the southern wall of Oxford she founded a great priory, where monks and nuns praised God and cared for those stricken by misfortune, and where her name lived on for ever.
Curan, J. 2009. BBC Oxford website [Online] [Accessed 31st March 2021] Available from:http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/oxford/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8403000/8403977.stm