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, February 20, 2013

February 20 -- Feast of Saint Wulfric of Haselbury

Another blogger noted that Wulfric was born to party, but she didn't mention that the party kept going for centuries after he went to his final rest.

Straight out of Compton (Martin, that is)
Coming straight out of Compton (i.e. Compton Martin),  he eventually left the hunt (literal, metaphorical, perennial, and otherwise) to settle into a priest's life.  But some holy men are very social, while others are... eremetic?  It might seem odd that a social young man like Wulfric would eventually withdraw to a hermit's life, but maybe he just couldn't find the balance.  John of Forde wrote a sizable biography of the saint, but I don't know what it says about his years as a priest.

Eventually, Wulfric set up a cell next to St. Michael's Church in Haselbury Plucknett.  He was exceptional, even among anchorites, for his mortification.  He wore chain mail over his hair shirt, just for extra chafing.  He recited his entire Psalter in baths of icy water -- I'm not sure how long that would take, but we're talking multiple psalms and hymns.

Hunting wasn't always fun -- see The Bonnacon
Of course, life wasn't all self-abuse and deprivation.  He copied scriptures in his cell and occasionally preached next door at the Church.  In fact, on the night before Easter one year he experienced an exceptionally sensual dream.  The next morning, he stood before the entire congregation during the Easter Mass and confessed it.  Must have raised more than a few bonnets but I am sure it also set a new standard for reconciliation after sin.

Wulfric's reputation spread.  Kings Henry I and Stephen both visited him for prayer and counsel.  Stephen is said to have visited more than once, but since he was pinned down in a civil war against the Empress Maud, he had good cause to cultivate friendships with holy men.

much more civil here
After Wulfric died, some Cluniac Benedictines (redundant, I know) from Montacute claimed his body.  Osbern, the parish priest from Haselbury, disputed the claim.  The Cluniacs noted that they had provided Wulfric with food for many years.  On the strength of that (debt?), they forced their way into the church and grabbed the casket.  Osbern summoned the local boys and reinforced them with Cistercians from Ford Abbey.  Seeing the door blocked, the black-robed Cluniacs tried to pass the casket out the window to their colleagues standing by outside.  The Cistercians raced around the building and shoved the box back through the window.  When the Cluniacs had finally been driven back to Montacute, Osbern decided to bury the relics in secret.  He moved them twice before they finally rested somewhere at the west end of the church.

Wulfric's cell was a popular pilgrimage destination for centuries.  So too were the Church Ales, which were basically keg parties organized by the church as fundraisers.  They were wildly popular until that Wettest of Blankets, Oliver Cromwell, came to power and shut them down. 


  1. Dear Tom Major,
    Your blog will serve as my matins!--as it appears it is yours. Erudition can be a form of benediction when when accompanied by a good ear for writing and a sense of humor (rather than ostentation.)
    (SF 6:30 a.m.)--and I'm not a robot!

  2. Thanks, SF-CA. I am grateful for your interest as long as I can sustain it. If my humor ever crosses the line into sacrilege (as my Dad occasionally suggested), please call me out on it. And I am ever late with a post, the archives on the right border will direct you to a daily saint from a previous year.

    God be with us, and we with God.