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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18 -- Feast of Saint Ulfrid

Thor at  Djurgarden Bridge, Stockholm
Ulfrid, who was also called Wolfred, was a learned Englishman who went north around AD 1000 as a Christian missionary.  He first preached in Germany, and eventually worked his way north into Sweden during the reign of King Olaf II. 

I tried to look into this Olaf fella a little more, but it seems like every third person up there called himself a king, and fully half of those guys were named Olaf.  It was pretty clear that Norway was the big power at the time, and of course Denmark was dominating the British isles, so Sweden must have been an emerging power or a developing nation.  Since I don't know which Olaf this was, I am not sure if he was Christian.  If he wasn't supportive, he was most likely not opposed to Ulfrid's work since it went well for many years. 


Success brings confidence, sometimes even arrogance, out of many of us.  We must guard against feeling that we've been doing so well for so long that we can do what we want.  This, I imagine, is what went wrong for Ulfrid. 

In AD 1028, he was preaching his Christian message in a town that had a large wooden icon of Thor.  Perhaps recalling the early church fathers who destroyed the statues of Jupiter & Co., Ulfrid seized a hatchet and began a little iconoclasm of his own.  This was a bit much for the Swedes at hand; they killed our saint on the spot and dumped his body in a marsh. 

I don't hold with iconoclasm -- not then and not now.  He would have been much better off, and would have served the Church better, by preaching and baptizing and letting the Swedes decide for themselves whether they wanted to keep or dump the statue of Thor. 

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