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.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17 -- Feast of Saint Withburh

The saint, in repose
 Withburga, as she might have been called, was an East Anglian princesswho founded a monastery at Dereham in Norfolk.  Construction was slowed by a lack of food for the builders, so Withburga's supplication to the Blessed Virgin Mary was answered by some tame does (as in deer) who allowed themselves to be milked.  An antagonistic landlord decided to hunt the does, but was thrown from his horse and died of a broken neck.

Withburga lived, died, and was buried.  Fifty-five years later she was exhumed and found to be incorrupt (or rather, her mortal remains were incorrupt; she was with the Lord).  An obvious sign of sainthood, the remains were placed in a chapel in Dereham and became a popular pilgrimage spot.

The pillaged tomb
Abbot Brithnoth of Ely, living some forty-three miles away (if you take the A10, but Brithnoth and his men went by river).  Eager for a cut of that sweet pilgrimage trade, they threw a big party for their Dereham neighbors, letting folks get as drunk as they could.  Then they boosted the blessed body and beat feet back to Ely.  The poor drunk Derehamites got wise and set out in hot pursuit; lives were lost in a pitched battle, but at the end of the night, the thieves had gotten away with their ill-gotten relics.

There was nothing left for it in Dereham except prayer.  Miraculously, a spring rose from the pillaged tomb and has never yet run dry.  Pilgrims wishing to commune with Saint Withburga can chose to drink from her spring at Dereham, visit her bones at Ely, or spend an hour or so on the A10 and do both. 

If you were expecting a St. Patrick page, you could go to last year's post on Joseph of Arimathea to review what I wrote about him.  Jennie A's limerick in the comment section would make it worth it, if nothing else does.

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