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.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16 -- St. Henry of Coquet Island

Henry was a Dane who dodged marriage by becoming a hermit on an isolated island, living apart from the other islanders and eating only one meal a day. I don't know what his parents' marriage was like, but it hardly seems worth it. How bad could marriage really be for a man in the twelfth century?

Henry made the best of his hermetic life by making the worst of it, living so austerely that nearby monks who visited would urge him to loosen up a little. He didn't of course, which eventually brought gawkers and seekers, hoping to get advice from the holy man. He developed quite a reputation for prophecy and telekinesis. He also distributed advice on devotional propriety, including his chastisement of a man who forswore sex during Lent; presumably Henry's view of marriage was that sex was a communal obligation that the man alone could not sacrifice.

Such was Henry's reputation that a group of Danes tried to persuade him to return to the mainland. Denmark had, after all, lots of harsh and isolated land on which a hermit could suffer an uncomfortable life. Henry prayed, held an all-night vigil, took counsel from a vision of Christ on the Cross, and determined to stay. [I don't want to be sacrilegious here, but it seems like Jesus might pick a more comfortable posture if he's going to have an all-night confab with a hermit.]

Eventually, ascetic life got the better of him and he fell ill. He rang his hermit's bell, which would summon help, but when the island residents got there, they found him dead. Over the objections of the locals, the monks of Tynemouth got their way in the end. Henry's body was wrapped up and brought back to the mainland where it could be interred and venerated.

No comments:

Post a Comment