Feast of St. Edward, King and Confessor 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, today we celebrate the feast of St. Edward, King and Confessor. The last of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England, Edward reigned until just before the Norman invasion in 1066. He commissioned the building of Westminster Abbey and kept the peace for most of his time. The exception was the Crisis of 1051-1052. When Edward rejected the local choice for the next Archbishop of Canterbury, and when his choice accused the other side of illegal possession of certain archepiscopal estates, there was a near civil war against the partisans of Godwin, Earl of Kent. The new Archbishop of Canterbury accused Godwin of a plot to kill the King, and that accusation dissuaded a number of Godwin’s soldiers from pressing on. There was another difficulty when Edward died without a male heir. The story spread that he quietly tipped his hand to William the Conqueror before dying. This undercut Edward’s Anglo-Saxon successor as a pretender to the throne and promoted the incoming Norman ruling class. Edward’s supporters claimed that he did not have any children because he and his wife took a vow of chastity in emulation of Our Lord. This did not always fit with Edward’s sporadic fits of rage, willingness to take bribes, and sometimes problematic intermeddling in Church politics. Nevertheless, in appearance and demeanor, he was tall, handsome, regal, and yet kind. A monk historian at the time described with almost hagiographic awe how Edward was “the very proper figure of a man – of outstanding height and distinguished by his milky white hair and beard. He walked with his eyes downcast – most graciously affable to one and all.” Nearly a century after Edward’s death, his supporters proved instrumental in the election of Pope Alexander III, and a grateful Pope issued the bull of canonization shortly thereafter.

From the start his canonization has been scoffed by some as more indicative of medieval Papal politics than of real sanctity. No doubt, Edward comes across in history as much more worldly in his behavior and pursuits than what we normally associate with saints. Nevertheless, there are indications that many people with no political axe to grind early on promoted the canonization of Edward, which suggests that there was a genuine blessedness in his character that a lot of his contemporaries did see. Moreover, who are we to suggest that a man of high political affairs or worldly concerns cannot also be a unique and celebrated instrument of God’s grace? Perhaps, it is best for us to remember Edward as an example of how God, indeed, can and does sometimes exert His will in the world through very flawed men. Saints come in every walk of life, and some saints are not obviously so during their lifetime. We can have faith that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church in properly recognizing the saints among the faithful. Moreover, when we ascend to the Church Triumphant, and behold all the blessed in God’s glory, we must not be too surprised when we see some among us whom we would never have expected to make it up there. God’s ways are not our ways, and Edward’s life and canonization should remind us of that.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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