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St. Aethelwold of Farne
(Died AD 699)

St. Aethelwold was, for some time, a monk at Ripon, "where having received the priestly office," says Bede, "he sanctified it by a life worthy of that degree. After the death of that man of God, Cuthbert, this venerable priest succeeded him in the exercise of a solitary life, in the cell which the saint had inhabited in the Islet of Farne, before he was made bishop." He found Cuthbert's little oratory so rudely put together, that the sea-wind shrieked in through the joints of the planks. Though patched up with clay and stubble, the chapel was so full of draughts that Aethelwold felt obliged to obtained a calf's skin, which he nailed against the wall where he was wont to pray, in order to keep the wind from blowing in his ear.

Bede says, "I will relate one miracle of Ethelwold, which was told me by one of the brothers who was concerned and for whose sake it was wrought, Guthfred, the venerable servant and priest of Christ, who afterwards presided in quality of abbot over the church of Lindisfarne, in which he was educated. I came, said he, to the Islet of Farne, with two other brothers, desiring to speak with the most reverent father, Aethelwold, and, when we had been comforted by his discourses, and having asked his blessing, were returning home when, on a sudden, as we were in the sea, the fair weather that was wafting us over changed and so great and furious a storm fell on us that neither sail nor oars availed, and we despaired of life."

"Having a good while struggled in vain with the wind and waves, we looked back at last to see if by any means we might return to the island, but found that we were equally beset with the tempest on all sides; but we could perceive Aethelwold at the mouth of his cavern, contemplating our danger. For, hearing the howl of the wind and the roar of the sea, he came forth to see how we fared. And, when he saw our desperate condition, he bent his knees to the Father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to pray for our life and safety. As he finished his prayer, the swelling sea immediately abated its violence and the rage of the winds ceased, and a fair gale, springing up, bore us over the smooth waters to the shore. But no sooner had we arrived and drawn our boat out of the water, than the same storm began to rage again and ceased not all that day; to the end that it might plainly appear that this small intermission had been granted from heaven, at the prayer of the man of God, that we might escape."

Aethelwold spent twelve years on Farne and died there on 23rd March (or 21st April) AD 699. He was buried on Lindisfarne, in the Priory Church of St. Peter, near the bodies of SS. Cuthbert and Edbert. His bones were afterwards taken up, in the time of the Danish ravages of AD 875, and, after numerous wanderings around northern England, were translated to Durham in AD 995 and more honourably enshrined in 1160.

Edited from S. Baring-Gould's "The Lives of the Saints" (1877).

 

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