This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 13 -- St. Edward the Confessor

Let me say right up front that I don't like Edward the Confessor. That probably explains my gripe below, at least in part. But it is not the observation below that causes me to not like him. I don't like that he promised the throne of England to a Norman Duke (William) when 1) Harold was plainly the man on the scene, and 2) the crown belonged to the witana gemot (council of chieftains), not to him. His lack of clarity on the issue set up the invasion in 1066, a terrible event for his countrymen.

But that's not my point about his sainthood. Set it aside, along with his getting credit for celibacy when all he really did was send his wife to a nunnery because her dad was fomenting a rebellion against him.

The gripe in question is the interpretation of his illness and death. While hanging out in Normandy, hiding from the Danish king Harthacnut, he swore he would make a pilgrimage to Rome if his family fortunes were restored. Harthacnut named him as successor, but of course when he became king he could not make the pilgrimage. He asked the Pope to release him from his promise; the Pope consented on the condition that Edward endow an abbey dedicated to St. Peter. Edward chose a church just outside London and ordered that a huge church be built there, but he fell ill and died before it was consecrated. So here's my question: why isn't his death prior to the consecration understood as evidence of God's displeasure with his broken promise? How can they canonize someone who failed to make a promised pilgrimage? For that matter, how could the conquest of Britain not be understood as a rebuke from God for the King's failure, since its deliverance from one foreign dynasty was the price of his unfulfilled bargain?

What a canny lot must have been sitting on Vatican Hill when King Henry II persuaded Pope Alexander III to canonize Edward.

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