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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20 -- Feast of Saint Ethelbert of East Anglia

At right is the shrine of St. Ethelbert, King of East Anglia. It looks to me like the sort of think you could drop a coin in to get your fortune told, or maybe to win a small toy. That's not a reflection of Ethelred, who was a serious fellow, but rather on the decorator who thought that a carnival stand would be the best way to house his bones.

Ethelbert was, as I said, a serious fellow, and they do not always fare well as kings. He had a lifelong limp, so he grew up without that jocular hunter-warrior attitude that help Richard the Lion-hearted and Henry VIII. More of a Claudius, if I can mix thrones.

He wanted to dedicate his life to God, but reluctantly became king because his country needed him. If he had not inherited from his father, the nobles would have fought for control of the country.

He wanted to remain celibate but his country needed him to produce an heir. Reluctantly, he agreed to Alfrida, daughter of King Offa of Mercia. Probably sucked for her too, planning to be married off to a guy who wants to be a monk, but it didn't come to pass. There were omens against it (earthquake and eclipse, among others), but he went to Mercia anyway.

Perhaps his intended mother-in-law didn't approve. Maybe King Offa didn't. It's hard to say, but Offa had a mechanic named Grimbert behead poor Ethelbert and dump his body in a trash heap.

Here come the miracles. 1) A divine ray shone down on the trash heap until the body was recovered so it could be brought back to East Anglia for proper veneration.

2) En route, his head rolled off the cart and bumped into a blind guy sitting by the road. The blind guy was healed, of course.

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