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, May 30, 2012

May 30 -- Feast of Saint Walstan

Saint with a scythe
Medieval pilgrims in Britain most famously went to Canterbury Cathedral to see where the Archbishop Thomas got cut down by Henry II's thugs.  In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer depicts a large group of such pilgrims, most of whom were less-holy-than-thou, though some more of course holier.

Pilgrims seeking a less traveled road, or perhaps imploring a patron more directly connected to their livelihoods, opted for Bawburgh.  Yes, that is a real place.  It is near Norwich, East Anglia, in the United Kingdom.  There, they viewed the relics and enlisted the support of Saint Walstan.  As the patron saint of farmers, he naturally drew an agricultural crowd, whereas that Becket feller apparently brought in pardoners, summoners, nun's (and their chaplains), knights, millers, and wives from Bath.

Pilgrims at Walstan's Well
Saint with shovel and manure
Walstan had been the son of a wealthy farmer, of royal stock, perhaps.  Precocious for a twelve year old, he took Luke 14:33 to heart.  He renounced his patrimony and took off down the road, becoming a field hand for family in Taverham.  He worked very hard and gave whatever he earned to the poor.  I can imagine that the family he worked for must have been frustrated by his generosity, since it must have appeared that they paid him too little.  When he gave away his shoes, the farmer's wife lost her patience and ordered him to clear our the thistles and briars.  She expected that his feet would be stripped raw by the thorns, teaching him to keep the necessities that he was given.  Instead, the plants softened and gave off a sweet fragrance as he trod upon them and pulled them up. 

Our Lady & Saint Walstan
The repentant farmer and wife asked Walstan's forgiveness, even offered to make him their heir, but he would only accept the offspring of a gravid cow.  She bore twin oxen, which would one day pull the cart that bore Walstan to his grave.  They stopped three times en route, and at each stop a spring gushed forth.  He was interred where the oxen finally stopped, and a chapel was built in the saint's honor.  Today, the Catholic Church of Our Lady and Saint Walstan remains, as does one of the holy wells to which pilgrims flocked.

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