August 31: Aidan of Lindisfarne

Detail of a painting showing an injured missionary being cared for by peasants
Detail from “A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Priest from the Persecution of the Druids” by William Holman Hunt, 1850

Wisdom and Grace:

Much of what we know about the Church in the Middle Ages comes to us from the pen of “The Venerable” Bede, a medieval monk and historian, who wrote a book called “Ecclesiastical History of the English People.” And this is true of Aidan.

Aidan was a monk of Iona and missionary to Northumbria in the seventh century. The story goes that the monk who was first sent as a missionary (a man named Corman), came back and made a report to his brothers:

“He told his brethren, when they were gathered together to hear the reason of his failure, that the English were stubborn, uncharitable people, harsh in temper and barbarous in manners. After Corman had finished speaking, one of the monks arose and said, ‘It appears to me, brother, that you have been more severe with your unlearned hearers than you should have been. You did not,’ said he, ‘after the precept of the Apostle, first offer them the milk of more gentle doctrine, till by degrees, nourished with God’s word, they might have strength to receive and be able to practice God’s more perfect and sublime precepts.’ After such wise and discreet words as these it was at once evident to the brethren that Aidan (for it was he who spoke) was the most fitting of their number to be sent, judging him, as S. Bede says, to be endowed with that grace of discretion which is the mother of all virtues.” (Gerard Sampson, Layman’s Book of Saints, Volume 3)

Aidan went on to become Bishop of Lindisfarne. He built monasteries, churches, and schools. He preached the Gospel and lived simply and virtuously.

A prayer

So, in remembering this faithful life, lived to the glory of God and the benefit of the Church, we pray:

O God, our heavenly Father,
who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst call thy blessed Apostles
and send them forth to preach thy Gospel of salvation unto all the nations:
We bless thy holy Name for thy servant Aidan,
whose labours we commemorate this day,
and we pray thee, according to thy holy Word,
to send forth many labourers into thy harvest;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect for the Commemoration of a Missionary from the Book of Common Prayer)

“The Oxford Dictionary of Saints”
by David Farmer


August 31: Aidan of Lindisfarne