Saint Edmund of Abingdon

Joint Principal Patron of the Diocese of Portsmouth

Here in the Diocese of Portsmouth we observe the Solemnity of Saint Edmund of Abingdon who, in 1222 became a canon of Salisbury Cathedral and later Archbishop of Canterbury.  Saint Edmund is honoured as a zealous and reforming pastor of the Church.  He died on 16th November 1240, and Pope Innocent IV canonised him just seven years later.  Saint Edmund is the joint Principal Patron of the Diocese of Portsmouth.

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Saint Edmund Rich was born at Abingdon in 1175.  He was educated at Oxford and Paris and became a noted academic, writing several commentaries on Sacred Scripture.  Edmund renounced an academic career in favour of an ecclesiastical one.  Don’t tell Saint Thomas, but Edmund became tired of the system of Scholasticism, that medieval system of theology which lays everything out in a beautiful precision of order, but which can sometimes go around in circles, and which Edmund felt was digging itself into a hole.  It was at Oxford he discerned a vocation to the priesthood and was later ordained.

In 1233 he became the Archbishop of Canterbury, a role that immersed him in many and varied disputes between the king and the pope.  Edmund wanted to develop a strong English church, formed from English vocations with English training and English loyalties.  He was constantly criticizing King Henry III for being too attached to foreign advisors, especially the French.  And as most of the bishops in England were French, he made many enemies, and after an attempt on his life he travelled to Rome to discuss his predicament with the Pope.  He died at the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny in France on 16th November 1240.  Devotion to the saintly archbishop spread quickly, but the King held up his canonization for seven years.  The Benedictines at Canterbury refused to take his body back, and so Saint Edmund remains in France where they call him Saint Edmé.

Edmund Rich was canonised in 1246, the first Oxford don to become a saint.  Saint Edmund Hall, Oxford is named after him.

The hurly-burly of today’s secular culture tends to cut us off from the past, making it an almost alien territory.  It makes us focus on the ‘now’ of the present moment or on what’s going to happen in the immediate future.  Yet for us as Catholics, the holy men and women of the past are crucial, since God has raised them up as models to inspire us and people to be imitated.  They make us think of Christ and the Love that streams from his Sacred Heart.

We thank God today for all the blessings he has lavished upon the Diocese of Portsmouth.  Let us ask Saint Edmund to pray for us that we will never lack the wisdom, prudence and other gifts of the Holy Spirit we need if we are to face the challenges of the exciting times ahead.

Saint Edmund of Abingdon, pray for us.

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