St Oswald – A Worthy Patron Saint - Reflection by Canon Bob


Read Canon Bob's reflection on Tuesday, August 4th, 2020.

For 15 years I had the privilege of being Rector of Winwick which is on the edge of the Diocese just off the M62 close to IKEA. The church is dedicated to St Oswald and many local historians claim it is the place where he died in battle, fighting as a Christian king against the pagan Penda. We remember Oswald as a king and martyr but interestingly the early church historian The Venerable Bede portrays Oswald as ‘Saintly’ not because of the means of his death but because of his life!

After a period of exile Oswald became king of Northumbria around 634 and requested help from the Iona community to spread the message of Christianity throughout his kingdom. Eventually Aiden was sent and Oswald gave him the island of Lindisfarne as a base for his mission and the home of his episcopal See. As the two of them travelled around his kingdom Oswald acted as Aiden’s interpreter since Aiden did not know English well and Oswald had learned Irish during his exile. As well as preaching Oswald gained a reputation as a man of compassion with a generosity to the poor and strangers.

On one occasion at Easter Bede describes Oswald was sitting with Aiden and had ‘a silver dish of dainties before him’ when a servant whom Oswald ‘had appointed to relieve the poor’ came in and told him that a crowd of the poor were in the streets begging alms from the king. Oswald then immediately had his food given to the poor and even had the dish broken up and distributed.

From this one story alone it could be suggested that Oswald had both recognised the need for a Foodbank and that the distribution of silver pieces at Easter was a forerunner to the practice of the monarch distributing Maundy Money as happens today.

So my case is that a Christian King with a heart for mission and a record of responding to the needs of his subjects would make a fine Patron Saint for our nation. He was, at least English!

Canon Bob

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