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October 12

St Edwin of Northumbria - October 12

Saint Edwin of Northumbria
King, Martyr
(Around 586 – 633)

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Saint Edwin of Northumbria

His Early Life

Edwin, also known as Aeduini, Eadwine, and Edwin the King was a prince born into a pagan family in 585 in Deira, South Northumbria, Englandborn around 586 in Deira, South Northumbria, England. He was the son of a King Aella of Deira. His sister Acha was married to Aethelfrith, King of neighbouring Bernicia. Prince Edwin was only three when his father died.

Exiled for 30 Years

Edwin was deprived of the throne by King Ethelfrith of Bernicia and Northumbria, who seized Aella’s kingdom. The location of his early exile as a child is not known. Edwin spent the next 30 years in Wales and East Anglia. As a young man, he married Cwenburg of Mercia by whom he had two sons.

King of Northumbria

Finally in 616, with the help of King Baedwald (Redwald) of East Anglia who had hosted him during his exile, Edwin was restored to the throne by defeating and killing Ethelfrith at the Battle of Idle River.

Remarried and Had Saints for Daughters

In 625, after the death of his first wife, Edwin married Saint Ethelburga, sister of King Eadbald of Kent, and a Christian. At first, Edwin’s seeking Saint Ethelburga’s hand was rebuffed because he was not a Christian. But eventually a contract was reached where Saint Ethelburga would be permitted the freedom to practice her religion and Edwin would seriously consider joining her in faith. With the agreement made, Saint Ethelburga brought with her to Northumbria her confessor, Saint Paulinus, a Roman monk, who had just been consecrated bishop of York. He had been sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great to help Saint Augustine in the conversion of England. Saint Paulinus also saw this as an opportunity to spread the faith in the northern parts of the island.

The examples of Christian virtue displayed by his wife and her chaplain played an important role in Edwin’s decision, but three specific events were determinative. First, an unsuccessful assassination attempt by the West Saxons. Second, the abandonment of paganism by Coifi the high priest. And, finally, a reminder by Saint Paulinus of a mysterious experience Edwin had undergone while in exile some years earlier.

An attempt on Edwin’s life was made, but he was saved by a minister who took the dagger blow directed against him. The same night his wife gave birth to a daughter, Saint Eanfleda (of Whitby). That child became the first Catholic baptized in his kingdom. Edwin and Saint Ethelburga were also parents to another daughter – Saint Edwen of Northumbria. Edwin’s influence extended beyond his immediate family, as he was the great-uncle of Saint Hilda of Whitby and the grandfather of Saint Elfleda.

Convert to Christianity

Following these incidents, Edwin was converted to Christianity in 627. Saint Paulinus baptized Edwin at Easter after the birth of a daughter. This event marked a significant turning point in the history of Northumbria, as Edwin became the first Christian King of the region.

After his conversion, Edwin worked tirelessly for the evangelization of his people. He sought to spread Christianity throughout his kingdom and establish it as the dominant faith. Many in Edwin’s court and subjects in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire also came to faith. Thus, began Christianity in Northumbria. The idols and false gods had already been destroyed by the high priest, Coifi, himself. Edwin’s commitment to this cause was evident in his efforts to build churches and support the work of missionaries.

King Edwin established law and order in the kingdom. Soon, he became the most powerful king in England, ruling Bernicia, Deira and much of eastern Mercia, the Isle of Man, and Anglesey. Edwin expanded his territory north into the land of the Picts, west into that of the Cumbrians and Welsh, and into Elmet near Leeds. Saint Bede relates that during the last year’s of King Edwin’s reign there was such peace and order in his dominions that a proverb said ‘a woman could carry her newborn baby across the island from sea to sea and suffer no harm.’

His Death

His intention to build a stone church at York (an unprecedented event in those days) never materialized when his kingdom was invaded by pagan King Penda of Mercia and Cadwallon of North Wales. Edwin was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633 in in Hatfield Chase, England. Since Edwin died in battle with the pagan king, Penda of Mercia, an enemy of the Faith, he is listed as a martyr.

Whitby holds the Saint Edwin’s relics that were brought from there from Hatfield Chase while his head is kept in Saint Peter’s Church in York. In turn, Whitby Abbey was governed by Edwin’s daughter, Saint Enfleda, and his granddaughter, Saint Elfleda.

Born :                   Around 586 in Deira, South Northumbria, England

Died:                    October 12, 633 in Hatfield Chase, England

Beatified:            Pre-Congregation

Canonized:         Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          October 12

Patron Saint:     Converts; Hoboes; Homeless People; Kings; Large Families; Tramps

Source:

Reflection 

Saint Edwin of Northumbria is known for his conversion to Christianity, becoming the first Christian King of the region. Edwin worked tirelessly for the evangelization of his people and establishing Christianity as the dominant faith. Saint Edwin’s commitment to this cause was evident in his efforts to build churches and support the work of missionaries. Saint Edwin’s life serves as a testament to the power of conversion and the impact an individual can have in spreading the Christian faith.

Whether you are a new convert or a life-long Catholic, how can your actions have a positive impact in spreading the Christian faith to all you encounter today?

Prayers

St. Edwin of Northumbria,

Noble ruler and faithful servant of God, you who embraced the light of Christ and spread His love throughout the land, we humbly come before you seeking your intercession and guidance.

Inspire us by your tireless evangelization of your people establishing Christianity in a pagan land, so that we may act with a tenacious determination to spread the love of Christ in all our actions guided by compassion for the needs of those around us.

May we, like you, be beacons of light in times of darkness, bringing hope, healing and kindness to our family, friends, and neighbors, near and far.

Saint Edwin of Northumbria, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – 3 Families where both parents and children became saints

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 12 October – St Edwin of Northumbria (586-616)

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler. Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. October 4 St. Edwin, King and Martyr

Catholic Online – St. Edwin of Northumbria

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Edwin, King – by Katherine I Rabenstein

New Advent – Phillips, G. (1909). St. Edwin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Orthodox Church in America – Saint Edwin, King and Martyr

Tradition in Action – St. Edwin – October 12 by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Video Link

King Edwin, Coifi and Paulinus – The Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity – YouTube (Step Through History)