22 June 2018

Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, Mildred, and All Holy Nuns

Hilda of Whitby (c. 614–680) is the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was chosen as the venue for the Synod of Whitby. An important figure in the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England to Christianity, she was abbess at several monasteries and recognised for the wisdom that drew kings to her for advice.

Etheldreda lived from about 636 –  679) is the name for the Anglo-Saxon saint known, particularly in a religious context, as Etheldreda or Audrey. She was an East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian queen and Abbess of Ely.  Her name was attached to a section in London called St. Audrey’s, known for selling inexpensive trinkets, and is where we get our word “tawdry.”

Mildred, was an 8th-century Anglo-Saxon abbess of the Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet, in Kent. She was declared a saint after her death, and later her remains were moved to Canterbury.

We know little of these women, and yet their names come to us as great witnesses to the Faith, and as foundresses of influential religious houses.  There is little left of the work they did in this world, and yet the Gospel which they believed and which they passed on to generations after them continues its work in the world as a testament to women such as these, as well as innumerable saints – known to us and unknown – who were born and baptized, who were faithful in kneeling before the altar just as we do, and who were sustained by the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as we all are.

It is an inspiration to glimpse at lives such as these, reminding us that the anonymous and the little known in previous generations were essential in handing on the Gospel to us.  And most of us, when centuries have passed, will be anonymous and little known, but we will have done our part in believing the Gospel and handing the Faith on to others. What we do here day after day is of essential importance, not just for our own salvation, but for the salvation of unborn generations to come.

O God, by whose grace thy holy Nuns, blessed Hilda, Etheldreda, and Mildred, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became burning and shining lights in thy Church: grant, by their merits and prayers; that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.