Wednesday, April 20, 2011
April 20 -- Feast of St. Caedwalla and St. Zaccheus
This seventh century heir to the throne of Wessex only lived thirty years, most of it in apparent sin, though there is little mention of that in accounts of his life. Unlike the lives of saints like Augustine, there's no record of a spiritual awakening that brings remorse for the dissolute life he had led. Instead, he was just a warrior-king who walked away from his throne to seek baptism. I'm not sure how that warrants sainthood, but April 20 is also the feast of St. Zaccheus. If you don't know his story, found at Luke 19:1-10, keep reading. It has bearing on Caedwalla's sainthood.
Zaccheus was a tax-collector and a very short man. As Jesus was walking through town, crowds were gathering around him and Zaccheus could not see him, so he climbed a tree. As Jesus walked under it, Jesus looked up and told him to come down and hurry home, as he needed to get things ready for Jesus to stay there that evening. The other people grumbled that Jesus was staying at the house of a sinner, and of course tax-collecting was a terrible sin for lots of reasons.
1. Tax collectors were collaborating with the Roman occupiers.
2. They over-charged and skimmed off the extra for themselves.
3. They were most exacting with the poor and politically powerless.
Jesus rebuked the crowd, saying that he had come to gather those who had been lost, and surely Zaccheus was one of the lost. Zaccheus repented, paid restitution to those he cheated, and followed the Lord. Eventually, he became the first bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. Although he was not one of the Twelve, he is considered an apostle (at least in the Eastern tradition).
Now back to Cadwalla. He was exiled from Wessex, where he had a claim on the throne, so he invaded Sussex and killed King Aethelwealh, but he was unsuccessful at holding the throne there. Eventually, he went back to Wessex and got control of the throne. Once in control of his homeland, he used it as a base to re-invade Sussex, which he conquered fully. He also conquered the Isle of Wight, annihilating the population so he could re-people it with Christians from his kingdom. He conquered Kent, placing his brother on the throne, and after the Kentish people rebelled and burned his brother, he ruled it directly. Not much saintly behavior yet.
An old wound from the Battle of Wight was bothering him, so he abdicated the throne and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He received baptism and died a couple days later, still wearing his white baptism robe. No long service to God and his fellow men, as Zaccheus was blessed to give, but he was gathered to the Lord before his death. Saint? I guess so. I might grumble, but the story of the tax-collector makes me wary.
Posted by Tom Major at 7:01 AM