This week we take a look at some of the pillars of the early Celtic Church. We start with Aidan, one of St Columba's monks from the monastery of lona, Aidan was sent as a missionary to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald, who was later to become his friend and interpreter.
Consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne in 635, Aidan worked closely with Oswald and became involved with the training of priests. From the island of Lindisfarne he was able to combine a monastic lifestyle with missionary journeys to the mainland where, through his concern for the poor and enthusiasm for preaching, he won popular support.
This enabled him to strengthen the Church beyond the boundaries of Northumbria.
Praised by Bede as someone who ‘lived as they taught’, Aidan continually studied the Gospels, taking care to live out their teachings and to encourage others to do the same. He was loved for his many virtues:
- an authentic man who reached out to all and who was truly himself with everyone, irrespective of their social status;
- a courageous man, unafraid to speak truth to power, yet always in a spirit of peace, humility and love;
- a patient man who persevered with those among whom he lived and to whom he ministered;
- a selfless man, who brought hope to the poor and oppressed;
- a creative man, willing to take risks for the sake of Christ and his gospel.
When Aidan was growing old, King Oswald gave him a very fine horse to spare his spindly legs and help him carry out his good work in comfort. Soon afterward, when Aidan was travelling through the countryside he met a poor man who begged him for help. Aidan immediately dismounted and overcome with feelings of pity and charity, gave the beggar his horse.
When King Oswald heard about Aidan’s action, he felt angered and hurt. When he next met Aidan he said, “You should not have given away such a fine horse which I had specially selected for you. I have many less valuable horses that are good enough for the poor.”
Aidan exclaimed, “What are you saying? Is the horse more important than the child of God to whom I gave it?” The king paused for a moment. Then he unbuckled his sword, throwing it aside, and knelt at Aidan’s feet. “I beg your forgiveness” he cried; “I shall never again question what you do with my gifts.” Aidan was deeply moved and blessed the king.
In our contemporary world, we have much to learn from Aidan.
you sent the gentle bishop Aidan
to proclaim the gospel
in this land especially to the people Northumbria:
grant us to live as he taught
in simplicity, humility, and love for the poor. Amen