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.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16 -- Feast of Saint Sigeberht of East Anglia

Here's the lesson for the day, given right up front in case you are in a hurry:  grabbing a saint might make you think God is on your side, but remember that martyrdom is a fast-track to sainthood. 

The Sutton Hoo helmet -- Raedwald's?
Sigeberht was a a member of the royal household of East Anglia.  He was either the younger son or adopted son of King Raedwald, with whom he had some sort of falling out, resulting in his exile to France.  These things happen, even in the best of families. 

While in France, Sigeberht was baptized as a Christian.  That was sort of a big deal, because the Angles and Saxons and Jutes who swarmed over Britain's shores brought all their gods like Wednesday and Thursday with them, driving Christianity west into Cornwall and Wales.  Raedwald had once been a Christian, but the politics of the time demanded a certain amount of paganism and kings who wanted to survive went with the flow.  Raedwald's second marriage was to a pagan princess from Essex, the mother of Sigeberht. 

East Anglian Coat of Arms
Raedwald's death (no one lives on earth forever, even if they convert to the dominant religion) brought Sig's brother Eorpwald to the throne.  Eorpwald accepted baptism shortly after becoming king, which which was lucky in the long-term but unlucky in the short-term: Ricbehrt assassinated Eorpwald, seized the throne, and apostatized East Anglia.  [Back in the day, a king got to decide the religion of his whole country, more or less.] 

Sig returned to Britain, raised an army, defeated Ricbehrt, and claimed the East Anglian throne.  As expected, he drove the country back to Christianity.  He was actually the senior partner in a co-monarchy (or rather a biarchy) with Ecgric, his nephew, half-brother, or step-brother.  Sig made alliances with the other Christian English kingdoms, which plugged him into the Frankish network.  He invited Felix of Burgundy (March 8) to come across the Channel and become Felix of Dunwich, first bishop of East Anglia.  Felix set up schools for the propagation of both faith and literacy.   It was a bully good time. 

Sig built a monastery.  Lots of kings did that.  It was considered a good thing for kings to do.  Then he moved into the monastery, accepted the tonsure, and stopped being king.  That was unusual, and not very nice for anyone else.  Ecgric was still the king, but apparently not as well respected, since Penda of Mercia launched an invasion. 

Ecgric asked Sig to leave the monastery and help out with the defense of the country.  He declined.  A mob hauled him out of the monastery and dragged him to the military encampment.  He announced that as a monk, he would not carry a sword and would not fight.  He did carry a staff, but it did little to protect him from Mercian swords.  He, Ecgric, and too many East Anglians lost their lives when Penda's army overran their country. 

Let me repeat for emphasis: grabbing a saint might make you think God is on your side, but remember that martyrdom is a fast-track to sainthood. 

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