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, January 26, 2013

January 26 -- Feast of Eystein Erlendsson

Eystein with the church he built
Today's Dilemma:  This fella's been a saint, though only by popular acclaim, since 1229.  In 2001, the Vatican declared him a beatus.  (At least, that's the impression that I get.) Very nice, but it is rather a demotion.  Would you rather be an unofficial saint or an official beatus?  I suppose if you had all proper humility, you'd say it didn't matter because you are in truth just a poor sinner striving for salvation.  And yet, what does a blogger like me, a censor of his own canon, call such a person?  Let's go to the record.

Born on a farm, he came from a family of aristocracy.  Of course, aristocracy was relative when you're talking about twelfth century Norway.  But still, his great-grandfather was an adviser to Harald Hardrada, the king who unwisely invaded England in 1066.  Both Harald and Grampa Ulv Uspaksson died in battle against King Harold and the English army, establishing the family's claim on national heroism.

Eystein  was educated in Paris, which is how he shot up pretty quickly in ecclesiastical circles to be chaplain to the King and then archbishop.  At the time, there was a nasty rivalry between the monarchy and the church.  Moreover, the monarchy itself was in some question -- should it be a unitary, hereditary, national government, or a shape-shifting government of warlords, sometimes governed by a single high king if he had enough power?  Eystein backed the unitary hereditary monarchy which would work closely with the archbishop.  He crowned Magnus Erlingsson, the grandson of King Sigurd Jorsalfar. 

Sadly, Fortune favored the high king / warlord model.  Magnus' government was overthrown by King Sverre Sigurdsson.  Eystein hung out serving the new King, but eventually differences caused him to  excommunicate Sverre/  The King then turned up the heat enough to cause Eystein to flee to England.  They eventually patched things up, allowing the archbishop to return to his See.  Before his death, he wrote some works praising Saint Olaf.  After his death, miracles were reported at his time.  A few decades later, the Norwegian synod declared him a saint. 

So, to recap the basics:  Miracles?  Check.  Leadership?  Check.  Courage?  Check.  Defense of the Faith?  Check.  Disqualifying failures?  Nope. As a bonus, we have some written scholarship (the stuff on Olaf). 

The Result?  Full sainthood.  Thanks, Saint Eystein, for your work to make Norway a modern, civilized, Christian community. 

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