Saint of the day 20150119

19 January

SAINT CANUTUS
King of Denmark and Martyr
(1040-1086)

St. Canutus, King of Denmark, was endowed with excellent qualities of both mind and body. It is hard to say whether he excelled more in courage or in conduct and skill in war; but his singular piety eclipsed all his other endowments. He cleared the seas of pirates, and subdued several neighboring provinces which infested Denmark with their incursions.

The kingdom of Denmark was elective till the year 1660, and, when the father of Canutus died, his eldest brother, Harold, was called to the throne. Harold died after reigning for two years, and Canutus was chosen to succeed him. He began his reign by a successful war against the troublesome, barbarous enemies of the state, and by planting the faith in the conquered provinces. Amid the glory of his victories he humbly prostrated himself at the foot of the crucifix, laying there his diadem, and offering himself and his kingdom to the King of kings.

After having provided for the peace and safety of his country, he married Eltha, daughter of Robert, Earl of Flanders, who proved a spouse worthy of him. His next concern was to reform abuses at home. For thus purpose he enacted severe but necessary laws for the strict administration of justice, and repressed the violence and tyranny of the great, without respect to persons. He countenanced and honored holy men, and granted many privileges and immunities to the clergy. His charity and tenderness towards his subjects made him study by all possible ways to make them a happy people. He showed a royal munificence in building and adorning churches, and gave the crown which he wore, of exceeding great value, to a church in his capital and place of residence, where the kings of Denmark are yet buried.

To the virtues which constitute a great king, Canutus added those which prove the great saint. A rebellion having sprung up in his kingdom, the king was surprised at church by the rebels. Perceiving his danger, he confessed his sins at the foot of the altar, and received Holy Communion. Stretching out his arms before the altar, the Saint fervently recommended his soul to his Creator; in this posture he was struck by a javelin thrown through a window, and fell a victim for Christ’s sake.

Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894]

Other saints: St Wulstan (1008? – 1095)
He was born in Warwickshire. He became a Benedictine monk of the cathedral priory of Worcester, but in 1062 was appointed bishop, and was one of the few Anglo-Saxons to retain their high office after the Norman Conquest. He was renowned as a confessor, and for his care of the poor and the sick and for the high standards he demanded of his clergy.
In the Chapel of St Oliver Plunkett at Downside Abbey, a stained glass window depicts a less official story concerning Wulstan: that one day, whilst celebrating Mass, he was distracted by the smell of roast goose, which was wafted into the church from the neighbouring kitchen. He prayed that he might be delivered from the distraction and vowed that he would never eat meat again if his prayer were granted.
The modern world needs stories like this more than it realises. The watered-down puritanism that serves so many of us as a moral code today equates pleasure with evil – cream cakes, the advertisements tell us, are “naughty but nice”.. or even “wickedly delicious.” Messages like this are a libel on the name of God, who created the pleasures, and on his Son, whose first recorded public act was turning water into wine. There is nothing wicked about delicious food in itself, or in any other pleasant or beautiful thing. Let us enjoy God’s creation all we can and rejoice in its creator as we do so, and if, like Wulstan, we have to deprive ourselves of something for our spiritual or bodily health, then let us suffer our deprivation cheerfully, blaming the weakness in us that made it necessary. Let us never devalue our sacrifices by denigrating the things we sacrifice, or the sacrifice will be pointless. Let us remember what God did, day after day, as he was creating the world: he looked at it, and saw it, and behold: it was very good.
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