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.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 6 -- Feast of Saint Bega

Didn't a US president once say that facts are stupid things?

Bega arriving by coracle -- at St. Bee's
The facts tell us that Saint Bega could not have been driven from Ireland in the seventh century by an impending marriage to a Viking chieftain because the Vikings had not begun to invade Ireland until the end of the eighth century.  If she had not arrived that early, then she could not have been the founder of St. Bee's Priory in Cumbria, even though all the tourist info there gives her that credit.  And the bracelet that is held at St. Bee's, considered her relic, was called a beag, calling into question whether the name Bega was invented long after the real owner's name was forgotten. 

And yet...  there are those miracles.

The miracle of the birds happened while Brega was a hermit, just after she first arrived in Cumberland.  Birds brought her food while she lived alone.  [Eventually she was persuaded to move to Northumbria to avoid becoming Viking booty.] 

The snow miracle began with a border dispute.  The neighbors had been encroaching on monastery lands.  To settle the dispute amicably, they agreed to walk the boundary on a certain day.  That morning, snow had fallen all over the land EXCEPT on the abbey grounds.

Linoleum block print by Melissa West
The horse-thief miracle has folklore humor but also justice. A young man was warned by his mom not to steal from Saint Bega's lands.  He stuck out his rump, rubbed it insultingly, and asked what that old woman could do to him, laughing, "Here, here she will shoot me."  Gotta give him credit for calling the shot.  Later, as he was rustling a horse, some men from the village fired off a few arrows in his direction.  He had posted up and bent forward to gallop away, but the arrows found their way directly into the spot he had so disrespectfully shown his mom.

The drunken killers miracle shows mercy and reconciliation.  Four men from Workington got drunk; three of them lived to face charges for the death of the fourth.  Locked in Egremont Castle, they were visited by the apparition of the saint, who heard their confessions and spirited them away to Saint Bee's.  Their prison fetters were held at the priory as evidence.

There are no tangible relics from most of the healing miracles that occurred in Brega's chapel and her cell.  The sight of a young blind Irish boy was recovered in her chapel in 1313 -- the whole congregation attested, but what relic could be left?  The speechless recovered their voices, the possessed lost their demons, and the mad regained their wits.  One exception is a cart in which a Frenchman pushed his two invalid sons (ulcerous and paralyzed) all the way to St. Bee's, where they were restored to full health.  Not needing the cart any longer, they left it as mute witness. 
Snow on St. Bee's

The severed hooves miracle might not even be miraculous -- just vengeful.  A neighbor named Godard de Boivill let his horses graze on abbey land.  When he was asked to remove and restrain their beasts, he did nothing but laugh.  The horses even got into the abbey garden and munched on the monks' own food.  Later, when Godard went to recover their horses, he found that the hooves were severed.  [I hope I am correct that hooves do not have sensation; if the animals were unhurt but unfit for riding until more hoof grew back, it's a good story.]  Godard allowed the monks to keep the hooves as relics and donated a pasture to the abbey.

And Brega's escape miracle is a good one, even if it does stretch credence.  On the day of this marriage to a pagan warlord, she prayed for deliverance.  The clod of earth on which she stood was lifted up and carried across the sea to land in Cumberland.  Another account says she took a coracle across the sea, but a flying clod is much more fun. 

Facts are stupid things.  We can't let them get in the way of a good story about a saint. 

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