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Saint of the Day - Saint Cuthbert (March 20)

The origins of Saint Cuthbert are steeped in mystery. Was he Irish? Was he Scottish? Was he a Briton? Does anyone know? He was orphaned at an early age and may have spent time shepherding and may have even fought the Mercians before becoming a monk. Let's piece it all together as best we can.

Image retriever from and used as being in the public domain.

Saint Cuthbert was born around the year 634. He died March 20, 687. He became a monk at Melrose Abbey. Around the year 661, Saint Cuthbert accompanied Saint Eata (feast day October 26) to Ripon Abbey, which had been built by the prior of Melrose Abbey. He returned to Melrose Abbey when the abbey had been turned over to Saint Wilfrid (feast day October 12). Apparently, Saint Cuthbert and Saint Wilfrid had a difference of opinion about something. Saint Wilfrid was appointed abbot by King Alcfrid.

Saint Cauthbert and Saint Eata returned to Melrose Abbey around 662. Upon their arrival, they found Melrose Abbey gripped in illness. Even Saint Cuthbert caught the bug. While he was recovering, the proper of the monastery died and Saint Cuthbert found himself made prior in the absence of the prior. It is important to note that Melrose Abbey was a daughter-house of the Abbey at Lindisfarn.

Cuthbert was engaged in missionary work when Saint Colmán of Lindisfarne (feast day February 18), who was bishop of Lindisfarne, refused to accept the ruling of the Council of Whitby which declared that the Roman rite and not the Celtic rite would be the acceptable liturgy. Saint Colmán immigrated to Ireland together with most of the monks from Lindisfarne. Saint Eata was then appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne, at which point he appointed Saint Cuthbert as Prior of Lindisfarne. He then resumed his missionary work before receiving the permission of his abbot to become a hermit.

During the time of his hermitage, Saint Cuthbert would receive guests. Eventually, he stopped accepting visitors, with some exceptions, but only opened his window to give blessings.

This came to an end when he was, against his will, named Bishop of Hexham. He arranged to switch sees with Saint Eata and become Bishop of Lindisfarne, where he would live out the remainder of his days.

According to Saint Bede the Venerable (feast day May 25), eleven years after his death, Saint Cuthbert's body was incorrupt. There is no indication of its condition today. It did get moved around a lot with the various invasions of England by the Danes and by the Normans.

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