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Saint Chad of Mercia

Saint Chad, brother of Saint Cedd, was the abbot of several monasteries, Bishop of the Northumbrians, Mercians and Lindsey people and is credited with introducing Christianity to Mercia.

Saint Chad was one of four brothers - Saints Cedd, Cynibil and Caelin and was Saint Cedd's junior. Based on writings from the Venerable Bede, it is very likely that the family descended from Northumbrian nobility. The name Chad is of British Celtic origin and can be found in the names of several Welsh princes during this time period. Saint Chad followed in Saint Cedd's footsteps by studying at the Celtic monastery of Lindisfarne - both brothers learned under Saint Aidan. After his formal education, Saint Chad travelled to Ireland as a monk with Saint Egbert for further studies. In Ireland the two followed very strict monastic rules but were not yet ordained as priests - it was common during this time period to be ordained at the age of 30 (the same age Jesus Christ was at the start of his ministry).

While Saint Chad was in Ireland, his brother Saint Cedd had become a prominent figure in the Northumbrian kingdom. Oswiu (King of Northumbria) had sent him in 653 to Middle Angles and then to the East Saxons. It was shortly after this trip that he was ordained a Bishop - as royal emissary and Christian missionary Saint Cedd was traveling between Essex and Northumbria frequently. The older brother, Saint Caelin, had been asking a nephew of Oswiu for some time to found a monastery where he could one day be buried. This nephew, Ethelwald, granted the two brothers a large piece of land at Lastinham, near the North York Moors close to one of the usable Roman roads. Cedd began a strict fast here that was finished by Caelin. The brothers were now completely intertwined in the ruling dynasties of Northumbria and Saint Cedd soon became Abbot of the new monastery.

Shortly after the Synod of Whitby in 664 (where King Oswiu declared that Northumbria would celebrate Easter according to the customs of Rome instead of the monks in Ireland), a terrible plague hit the land killing many of the clergy. Saint Cedd himself was a victim of this plague and died at Lastingham. Saint Chad returned from Ireland near this time and was given the position of Abbot at Lastingham, succeeding his brother. It was here at the monastery that Saint Chad formed a strong regime of prayer and study that formed the monastic routine at Lastingham. A strong emphasis of Biblical exegesis through dialectic was set. Whenever a storm came to the monastery, Saint Chad would stop reading and pray for God to give pity on humanity. If it got worse, he would go into the church and sing psalms until the storm receded. Saint Chad explained to the monks that he believed storms are sent by God to remind us of the day of judgement and to humble our pride.

Soon after, King Oswiu was invited to court to become the Bishop of the Northumbrians. Venerable Bede lists him as the Bishop of York. King Oswiu had strong intentions of having Saint Chad be the bishop over the entire Northumbrian people. King Oswiu also began sending him on several visits to neighboring territories including Canterbury and Wessex. At Wessex he was ordained by Bishop Wini and two Welsh Bishops. Unfortunately, at the time none of these bishops were truly recognized by Rome at the time. During these extensive travels Saint Chad never stopped preaching the Gospel to every town, cottage, village and house he came across. In 669, Pope Vitalian sent Theodore of Tarsus to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Because Rome saw the Bishops installed previously and not canonically permitted, he asked Saint Chad to step down. Saint Chad offered gracefully to step down as Bishop, showing so much humility that Theodore confirmed his ordination but still asked for the retirement. Saint Chad did so and returned to Lastingham to serve once again as Abbot at the monastery.

A few years later though, the King of Mercia, King Wulfhere and his brothers converted to Christianity and called for a Bishop to come to the kingdom. Archbishop asked Saint Chad to come out of retirement instead of consecrating a new Bishop as he had already been deeply moved by Saint Chad's humility and holiness. He knew Saint Chad was the right man for the job. Saint Chad was consecrated Bishop of the Mercians and Lindisfaras. King Wulfhere donated land at Lichfield for a monastery to be built. Saint Chad staffed this monastery from monks from Lastingham and made it the center of the Diocese of Mercia. He immediately began carrying out missionary and pastoral work in the kingdom "in the manner of the ancient fathers and in great perfection of life" according to Bede. His work in the Kingdom of Mercia was decisive in Christianizing the people and kingdom.

One day, one of the monks named Owin heard sounds of joyful singing come down from heaven until it filled the oratory as he worked outside the church. For about a half hour there was a period of silence, then more joyful music and singing. Soon Saint Chad called him into the church and told him to bring 7 other monks with him. Once gathered, Saint Chad told them that they must hold strong to the strict monastic disciplines that they held dear and that his life would soon be coming to an end. In private, Saint Chad told Owin that angels had come down into the church to tell him of his reward in heaven and that seven days from now they would be returning to bring him home. Over the next weak, Saint Chad began falling more and more ill and weak.

Saint Chad died from a plague outbreak on March 2, 672. Bede wrote:

"he had always looked forward to this day – or rather his mind had always been on the Day of the Lord"

Saint Chad is a Saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Celtic Orthodox Church and listed as a Saint in the new Eastern Orthodox Synaxarion with a feast day celebrated on March 2, the day of his death. He was venerated as a Saint immediately following his death with his relics translated into a shrine. The shrine became extremely famous as a healing pilgrimage during the middle ages. As with many other shrines and relics, the Reformation brought destruction. King Henry VIII demanded the shrine be dissolved in 1538 and Prebendary Arthur Dudley removed and retained some of the relics, passing them down to his family. In 1651, a farmer by the name of Henry Hodgetts of Sedgley was giving his death bed confession and called out to Saint Chad for his intercession. When asked why he called to Saint Chad, the farmer replied

"because his bones are in the head of my bed"

His wife gave the relics now to the Priest who placed them in the Seminary at Saint Omer, France. In the 19th century the remains were brought to Staffordshire by Sir Thomas Fitzherbert-Brockholes of Aston Hall. When Sir Thomas died, Father Benjamin Hulme discovered the relics and presented them to Bishop Thomas Walsh in 1837 who enshrined them in the new Saint Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham.

Saint Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham

Interior of Saint Chad's Cathedral

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