Project Canterbury

The Little Lives of the Saints

Told by Percy Dearmer

Illustrated by Charles Robinson.

London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1904.

St. Chad

CEADDA, or Chad as he is now called, was one of the little boys whom St. Aidan put to school in Northumberland; and when he grew up he became a monk in the abbey of Lindisfarne. Three of his four brothers had been at the school, and they all grew up to be good and great men, The eldest, whose name was Cedd, became a famous missionary bishop, and ended his days in an abbey he had built at Lastingham, in Yorkshire; but, before he died, he appointed his brother Chad to be his successor. Thus Chad came to rule the monastery in the wild moorland country, among the bracken and purple heather.

But he did not remain long in his monastery. For it so happened that a bishop was wanted for the church of York. St. Wilfrid had been chosen bishop, and had gone abroad to France to be consecrated; but so long was he away that the king said they must wait no longer, but choose some other bishop. Then he sent for Chad and had him consecrated Bishop of York. Chad ruled his diocese nobly. When he was not engaged in prayer and study he would be travelling all over the country, always going about on foot like a poor man, and preaching the Gospel in towns and villages, in the open fields, in the little thatched cottages, and in the strong castles where the great men dwelt. "Much of that folk," says an old writer, "through his word, cast their hearts to God."

After Chad had been bishop a little while, a new Archbishop of Canterbury, named St. Theodore, came to England. He was a very busy man, and went all over England putting things to rights. When he found Chad, he said to him:--"You ought not to be a bishop, because you have not been properly appointed."

Chad was not a bit angry, but very gently and humbly he replied:--"If you know that I have not been properly made a bishop, I gladly resign the office. I never thought I was worthy of it, and I only undertook it in obedience to those in authority."

Archbishop Theodore was so touched by this gentle answer, that he said to him:--"Nay, you must not resign. I will set your appointment right myself."

Still Chad insisted on resigning. He went back to his monastery among the heather; and Wilfrid became Bishop of York.

If you look at the map of England you will see right in the middle of the map a town called Lich field. The country all round was once named Mercia. It took up all the middle part of England, including seventeen whole counties, and was a kingdom all to itself. The king of Mercia wanted a bishop, and Archbishop Theodore sent Chad to him. Theodore, you may guess, knew now how good a man Chad was, and loved him very much, He thought that Chad would become tired out if he went over all this great diocese on foot, as he had been used to do, so he bade him go on horseback. Chad said that he preferred to walk like a poor man. Then Theodore took hold of him and lifted him on to his horse and sent him jogging away. That was how Chad learnt to ride.

Now Chad wanted to find a pSace for hii cathedral that was in the centre of Mercia, so that he could manage his diocese better. He therefore chose that town I have told you of, where the beautiful Cathedral of Lichfield now stands. It was called Lichfield, which means the Field of the Dead, because, many years before the Saxons came into England, a thousand British Christians had been martyred there by the Romans. Chad set up a cathedral there, not the one you can sec now, but a much smaller and simpler one. For his palace he built a little house quite near the cathedral. There he used to live with seven or eight monks.

And now we have come to an end of history and geography, and what follows is just a legend.

The Legend of the Two Princes.

King Wulfhere of Mercia, who had been the means of Chad's coming to Lichfield, fell away from the Faith, and became a heathen. He had two sons, whose names were Wulfade and Rufine. One day Wulfade went into the forest to hunt. He started a beautiful hart, and chased it a long way, till he reached the midst of the forest, where, as it happened, St. Chad had gone to live in a little hut by himself.

St. Chad was kneeling on the soft grass in the little open place near the middle of the forest where his cell was. On one side was the tiny wooden chapel with its one window, and a still tinier room where he lived.

On the other side was a spring where the clear water bubbled up and trickled away in a little stream. The leaves were bright on the beech trees, the birds were singing in their brandies; all was quiet and peaceful, and still the saint lifted up his eyes to the far blue sky and prayed.

Suddenly there was a scurry, and a little crash, and a splash in the spring. The beautiful hart, hot and panting, had sought refuge in the holy place. Chad was sorry when he saw the poor beast. He took it out and let it rest. Then he tied a cord round its neck and sent it to graze in the forest.

Soon Wulfade came rushing through the thicket into the glade. "Where is the hart gone?'' he cried.

"The hart that hither thee hath brought,
Is sent by Christ that thee hath bought,"

answered Chad. "The hart leapt into my fountain, and this foreshadows your baptism. So the text says, 'Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God." He told the lad about the dove sent from the ark, and about other dumb animals that had helped men.

Wulfade said he would believe if the hart came back in answer to Chad's prayer. Chad prayed, and lo! the hart came running back through the thicket. But Wulfade would not now have hurt it for the world. He stopped and talked earnestly with the old bishop, till the birds had all gone to bed, and the glow-worms began to light their little lamps. Then Chad christened him. The sky grew dark and the stars came out one by one, and the grasshoppers sang merrily in the thicket, but still he did not go. At last he lay down to sleep just as he was, with his laced gaiters on his legs and his lance, bow and arrows by his side. Next morning the saint said Mass, while the birds sang their morning hymn in the trees, and Wulfade knelt in the tiny chapel to receive his first Communion.

Back he went with heart so light that he scarcely seemed to touch the ground. He went to Rufine, his brother, and said, "I have become a Christian!"

"I have long wished for baptism," answered Rufine. "I, too, will seek the holy Chad." So off he went into the forest, though he did not know the way. He wandered among the trees till he spied the hart, grazing with the cord round its neck. Then he gave hot chase, till at last the hart dashed into the well by Chad's little chapel.

There it all was just as his brother had told him--the water bubbling from the spring and the old man kneeling by the side.

"Are you, my lord, Father Chad, who guided my brother to salvation?" asked Rufine. When the saint said that he was, Rufine stayed and was taught; at night fall he was baptised, and next day received his first Communion, like his brother.

Every day those two princes came to see Chad, so much they loved him. But they had an enemy, who spied out their goings and told the king, their father.

When the king heard that his sons had received Christ he grew white with anger. He set out for the little chapel, and found them praying there together.

"Come out!" he cried. "Come out! and abjure this religion of yours!" They came forth, and Wulfade said that, though they wished to love their father, no tortures could turn them away from Christ. Then the king rushed madly at Wulfade and cut off his head; Rufine he pursued into the forest, and there slew him also.

Great was the sorrow of the queen, their mother, and many the tears she wept. She buried them together in one stone tomb, and went far away to live in a convent for the rest of her days.

But the king grew more and more wretched, till he became ill with horror and remorse. Then one morning he went out into the forest alone, and wandered about to seek for Chad and ask forgiveness. At last he found the hart with the cord round its neck, and followed it till it brought him to Chad's little wooden chapel.

There was the saint, saying Mass before the little altar; and he knew that the king was waiting timidly without, prostrate on the ground, till the holy office was done. The sun shone brightly through the tiny window, making a golden beam across the chapel. Now when Chad turned to take off his chasuble, he thought only of the penitent outside; and, without thinking what he was doing, he hung the vestment on the sunbeam as if it were a solid bar. The king looked up, and there stood the old bishop before him, waiting to hear his confession; and, wonder of wonders! there behind him was the vestment lying across the sunbeam.

The king confessed his sins, and was absolved; and for penance he promised to abolish all idolatry and to found monasteries throughout his land.

At last the time came for Bishop Chad to die. He was sitting in his oratory one day alone, when a monk-- a lay-brother--who was at work outside, heard the most lovely music, like the sound of sweet voices, float down into the oratory, and after a while return again to heaven. While he marvelled, the bishop opened the window and called to him to fetch the eight monks from the church. When they were come he said:--

"My dearest children, see that you always keep peace among yourselves and towards others, and observe the strict rules of our discipline, for the day of my departure is at hand. That lovely Guest, who used to come to our brethren, has vouchsafed to come to me to-day, and to call me out of this world."

When the others were gone, the lay-brother asked him, "What was that song of joy I head?"

"Tell no one before I am gone," said St. Chad, "they were angels who came to call me to heaven, and they promised that in seven days they will return and take me back with them."

On the seventh day he received the Body and Blood of Christ, and then the angels came again to fetch him. One monk caught sight of the heavenly messengers, and in the midst of them he saw a human figure. It was Cedd, who had come down with the angels to fetch his brother home to God.

Project Canterbury