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Imitation of Holy Humility, St. Aidan | KFP Articles
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Wednesday, 31 August 2011 17:27

Today is the Feast of St. Aidan.  In his commentary on the history of the English Church Venerable Bede commends as praiseworthy Aidan's virtues; that he did not attach himself to things of this world, he was concerned for the poor "wont to traverse both town and country on foot, never on horseback," never given to haughtiness, and always sought to bring into the faith or deeper into the faith those persons he encountered in his travel. Bede's stories of Aidan often recall these virtues.  The following story described by Bede illustrates them well and communicates with precision the humility of this great Priest and Bishop.  Here is an excerpt from Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book III:

 

He had given an extraordinarily fine horse to Bishop Aidan, which he might either use in Crossing rivers, or in performing a journey upon any urgent necessity, though he was wont to travel ordinarily on foot. Some short time after, a poor man meeting him, and asking alms, he immediately dismounted, and ordered the horse, with all his royal furniture, to be given to the beggar; for he was very compassionate, a great friend to the poor, and, as is were, the father of the wretched. This being told to the king, when they were going in to dinner, he said to the bishop, "Why would you, my lord bishop, give the poor man that royal horse, which was necessary for your use? Had not we many other horses of less value, and of other sorts, which would have been good enough to give to the poor, and not to give that horse, which I had particularly chosen for yourself?" To whom the bishop instantly answered, "What is it you say, O king? Is that foal of a mare more dear to you than the Son of God?" Upon this they went in to dinner, and the bishop sat in his place; but the king, who was come from hunting, stood warming himself, with his attendants, at the fire. Then, on a sudden, whilst he was warming himself, calling to mind what the bishop had said to him, he ungirt his sword, and gave it to a servant, and in a hasty manner fell down at the bishop's feet, beseeching him to forgive him; "For from this time forward," said he, "I will never speak any more of this, nor will I judge of what, or how much of our money you shall give to the sons of God." The bishop was much moved at this sight, and starting up, raised him, saying, "He was entirely reconciled to him, if he would sit down to his meat, and lay aside all sorrow." The king, at the bishop's command and request, beginning to be merry, the bishop, on the other hand, grew so melancholy as to shed tears. His priest then asking him, in the language of his country, which the king and his servants did not understand, why he wept, "I know," said he, "that the king will not live long; for I never before saw so humble a king; whence I conclude that he will soon be snatched out of this life, because this nation is not worthy of such a ruler." Not long after, the bishop's prediction was fulfilled by the king's death, as has been said above. But Bishop Aidan himself was also taken out of this world, twelve days after the king he loved, on the 31st of August, to receive the eternal reward of his labours from our Lord.

I could write a small book on how this simple story has affected my life.

 

Source: Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book III, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book3.asp


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