Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514). Illustration tirée de la Nuremberg Chronicle
Archevêque de Cantorbéry (✝ 1240)
ou Edme, évêque de Cantorbery,
Les parents de saint Edme (ou Edmond) vivaient près d'Oxford et n'avaient pas grande fortune. Ils étaient d'une grande piété et sa mère éleva seule ses enfants, ayant accepté que son époux se fasse religieux. Edme était l'aîné. Elle l'envoya étudier à Paris avec son frère Robert, restant toujours en relation avec eux, ne serait ce que pour leur envoyer du linge neuf. Ayant appris que sa mère était gravement malade, il retourna en Angleterre et, à sa mort, revint à Paris achever ses études. Puis il y enseigna les "belles-lettres" et les arts libéraux durant 6 années, soignant dans le même temps ses étudiants malades et aidant les plus pauvres. Ses contemporains l'avaient en haute estime, le voyant lire assidûment la Sainte Bible et se rendant quotidiennement à l'église Saint Merry pour y chanter Vêpres et Matines.
Parmi ses écoliers, se trouvait Etienne de Lexington, fondateur du collège des Bernardins à Paris en 1245 et futur abbé de Cîteaux. De retour en Angleterre, il enseigne à Oxford. Nommé archevêque de Cantorbery en 1234 par le Pape Grégoire IX (1227-1241), il se montre inflexible dans la défense des droits de l'Eglise, il s'attire la haine du roi. En ces circonstances, il ne fut soutenu ni par les autres évêques anglais, ni par son chapitre qui allait même jusqu'à l'injurier.
En 1240, suivant l'exemple de son prédécesseur, saint Thomas Beckett, il prend la résolution de se réfugier en France et se retire d'abord à l'abbaye de Pontigny, puis au monastère de Soisy, près de Provins, où il meurt le 16 novembre 1240. Il fut inhumé à Pontigny, le 20 novembre, en la fête de saint Edmond, martyr.
Les pèlerinages à saint Edme durèrent jusqu'à la Révolution. Nous avons de lui plusieurs écrits adressés à ses contemporains.
Près de Provins dans la région parisienne, en 1240, le trépas de saint Edmond Rich, évêque de Cantorbéry, qui, pour la défense de son Église, fut envoyé en exil, vécut parmi les moines cisterciens de Pontigny et mourut chez des chanoines réguliers.
"C'est un devoir pour vous, mes enfants, d'aimer la paix, puisqu'un Dieu en est l'auteur, qu'il nous l'a recommandée, qu'il est venu pacifier le ciel et la terre et que de cette paix du temps dépend celle qui est éternelle ... Vivez en paix avec tous les hommes autant qu'il en dépendra de vous, exhortez vos paroissiens à n'être qu'un même corps en Jésus-Christ par l'unité de la foi et le lien de la paix." (A ses prêtres - Constitutions de 1236)
Edmund Rich B (RM)
(also known as Edmund or Edme of Abingdon)
Born in Abingdon, Berkshire, England, on November 30, c. 1170-1180; died near Pontigny c. 1242; canonized 1246 or 1247 (no one agrees exactly on any of these dates).
Born into a prosperous family, Edmund Rich studied at Oxford and Paris. He taught art and mathematics at Oxford, received his doctorate in theology, and was ordained. He taught theology for eight years and about 1222 became canon and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral.
He was an eloquent and popular preacher, preached a crusade against the Saracens at the request of Pope Gregory IX in 1227, was elected archbishop of Canterbury in 1233 (after Pope Gregory rejected three other candidates), and was consecrated in 1234 against his wishes. He was an adviser to King Henry III, undertook several diplomatic missions for the king during his seven-year episcopate, and in 1237 presided at Henry's ratification of the Great Charter.
Edmund was reputed to be a man of very virtuous life who experienced heavenly visitations. Saint Gregory was essentially a preacher and teacher, a man of study and prayer.
To lighten the burden of public affairs with which he reluctantly, but resolutely, had to deal, he chose as his chancellor Master Richard of Wich, known to later ages as Saint Richard of Chicester.
Immediately after his consecration Saint Edmund was successful in averting civil war in the Welsh marshes, and he brought about a reorganization of the government. His uncompromising stand in favor of good discipline, monastic observance, and justice in high quarters soon brought him into conflict with King Henry III over discrepancies between church law and the English common law, with several monasteries, and with his own chapter.
Edmund protested Henry's action in securing the appointment of a papal legate, Cardinal Otto, to England as an infringement of his episcopal rights. A rebellion by the monks of Christ Church at Canterbury, supported by Henry, to eliminate his rights there caused him to go to Rome in 1237, and on his return he excommunicated 17 of the monks--an action that was opposed by his suffragans, Henry, and Cardinal Otto who lifted the excommunications.
Edmund then became involved in a dispute with Otto over the king's practice of leaving benefices unoccupied so the crown could collect their revenues. When Rome withdrew the archbishop's authority to fill benefices left vacant for six months, he left England in 1240 and retired to the Cistercian abbey at Pontigny. He died at Soissons, France, on Nov. 16 and was canonized in 1247 by Pope Innocent IV.
Saint Edmund was a learned and holy man, and a good if not great bishop. On his deathbed he called God to witness, 'I have sought nothing else but you.' He was buried in the abbey church at Pontigny, where his body still lies; locally there he is called Saint Edme.
Very little of his writing has survived, but his Mirror of Holy Church makes it clear that he is entitled to an honorable place among the English medieval mystics. In this treatise he sets out at various levels the contemplative's way to God.
The only surviving medieval hall at Oxford, Saint Edmund's, is named in his honor, and according to tradition it was built on the site of his tomb (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Lawrence).
Saint Edmund is portrayed in art as an archbishop making a vow before a statue of the Blessed Virgin as the Christ-Child appears to him. Sometimes Saint Thomas of Canterbury appears to him (Roeder).
St. Edmund Rich
Archbishop of Canterbury, England, born 20 November, c. 1180, at Abingdon, six miles from Oxford; died 16 November, 1240, at Soissy, France. His early chronology is somewhat uncertain. His parents, Reinald (Reginald) and Mabel Rich, were remarkable for piety. It is said that his mother constantly wore hair-cloth, and attended almost every night at Matins in the abbey church. His father, even during the lifetime of his mother, entered the monastery of Eynsham in Oxfordshire. Edmund had two sisters and at least one brother. The two sisters became nuns at Catesby. From his earliest years he was taught by his mother to practise acts of penance, such as fasting on Saturdays on bread and water, and wearing a hair shirt. When old enough he was sent to study at Oxford. While there, the Child Christ appeared to him while he was walking alone in the fields. In memory of what passed between him and Christ on that occasion, he used every night to sign his forehead with the words "Jesus of Nazareth", a custom he recommended to others. Anxious to preserve purity of mind and body, Edmund made a vow of chastity, and as a pledge thereof he procured two rings; one he placed on the finger of Our Lady's statue in St. Mary's Oxford, the other he himself wore.
About 1195, in company with his brother Richard, he was sent to the schools of Paris. Thenceforward, for several years, his life was spent between Oxford and Paris. He taught with success in both universities. After having devoted himself to the study of theology, Edmund acquired fame as a preacher, and was commissioned to preach the Sixth Crusade in various parts of England. All this time his austerities were very great. Most of the night he spent in prayer, and the little sleep he allowed himself was taken without lying down. Though thus severe to himself, he was gentle and kind towards others, especially to the poor and sick, whom sometimes he personally attended. In 1222 Edmund became treasurer of Salisbury cathedral. Ten years later he was appointed to the Archbishopric of Canterbury by Gregory IX and consecrated 2 April, 1234.
Notwithstanding the gentleness of his disposition, he firmly defended the rights of Church and State against the exactions and usurpations of Henry III. He visited Rome in 1237 to plead his cause in person. This fearless policy brought him into conflict, not only with the king and his party, but also with the monks of Rochester and Canterbury. Determined opposition met him from all sides, and constant appeals were carried to Rome over his head. In consequence, a papal legate was sent to England, but Henry adroitly managed the legate's authority to nullify Edmund's power. Unable to force the king to give over the control of vacant benefices, and determined not to countenance evil and injustice, Edmund saw he could not longer remain in England. In 1240 he retired to the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny. Here he lived like a simple religious till the summer heat drove him to Soissy, where he died. Within six years he was canonized, and numerous miracles have been wrought at his shrine. Notwithstanding the devastation that from time to time has overtaken Pontigny, the body of St. Edmund is still venerated in its abbey church. Important relics of the saint are preserved at Westminster Cathedral; St. Edmund's College, Ware; Portsmouth Cathedral, and Erdington Abbey. The ancient proper Mass of St. Edmund, taken from the Sarum Missal, is used in the Diocese of Portsmouth, of which St. Edmund is patron. In September, 1874, 350 English pilgrims visited St. Edmund's shrine. The community, known as Fathers of St. Edmund, were forced to leave their home at Pontigny, by the Associations law. The "Speculum Ecclesiae", an ascetical treatise, and the "Provincial Constitutions" are the most important of St. Edmund's writings.
Besides the three ancient lives of St. Edmund by MATTHEW PARIS, ROGER BACON, and ROGER RICH, there is a fourth ascribed to BERTRAND OF PONTIGNY in MARTENE AND DURAND, Thesaurus Ancedororum. For a complete account of the MSS. records, the reader is referred to WALLACE, St. Edmund of Canterbury (London, 1893), 1-18, and to DE PARAVICINI, St. Edmund of Abingdon (London, 1898), xiii-xlii; BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, 16th Nov.; S. Edmund Archp. of Canterbury (London, 1845) (Tractarian); WARD, St. Edmund Archbp. of Canterbury (London, 1903); ARCHER in Dict. of Nat. Biog., s.v.
Edmonds, Columba. "St. Edmund Rich." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 16 Nov. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05294a.htm>.
St. Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, Confessor
His life is accurately written by several hands: by his own brother Robert, who accompanied him in his journeys to Rome. (MS. in Bibl. Cotton, incipit B. Edmundus Cantuar.) Also by Bertrand, the saint’s companion and secretary in his exile, and after his death a monk, and at length prior of Pontigny, published by Dom Martenne (Thesaur. Anecdot. t. 3,) with curious dissertations and remarks. See also Matthew Paris, Nicholas Trivet, Annal. 6 Regum: Wood, Hist. et Antiq. Oxon. p. 9, 61. Godwin Præsul. Angl. p. 130. Also Testimonia plurium, de sanctitate Edmundi Cant. MS. in Bibl. Coll. Corp. Christi Oxon. n. 154.
ST. EDMUND RICH was the eldest son of Reynold Rich, a tradesman of Abington in Berkshire, and his wife Mabilia. His parents were but slenderly provided with the goods of this world, but possessed abundantly the true riches of virtue and divine grace. Reynold from the sale of his stock, leaving a moderate competence for the education of his children, and for a foundation for their industry to work upon, committed them to the care of his prudent and virtuous consort; and with her free consent made his religious profession in the monastery of Evesham, where he finished his mortal course with great fervour. Mabilia, who remained in the world, was not behindhand with him in aspiring ardently to Christian perfection. To accomplish the course of her penance, and to tame her flesh she practised great austerities, and constantly wore a rough hair cloth: she always went to church at midnight to matins, and by her own example excited her children to the heroic practice of virtue. Our saint in his childhood, by her advice, recited the whole psalter on his knees every Sunday and holiday, before he broke his fast, and on Fridays contented himself with only bread and water. How zealous soever the mother was in inspiring into the tender minds of her children a contempt of earthly things, and the greatest ardour in the pursuit of virtue, and in suggesting to them every means of attaining to the summit of Christian perfection, Edmund not only complied joyfully with her advice, but always went beyond her directions, desiring in all his actions to carry virtue to the greatest heights; though in all his penances and devotions he studied secrecy as much as possible, and was careful to shun in them the least danger of attachment to his own sense. For that fundamental maxim of virtue he had always before his eyes, that even devotion infected with self-will and humour, becomes vicious, and nourishes self-love and self-conceit, the bane of all virtue and grace in the heart. As for our young saint he seemed to have no will of his own, so mild, complying, and obliging was he to every one, and so dutiful and obedient to his mother and masters. And the sweetness and cheerfulness wherewith he most readily obeyed, and seemed even to prevent their directions, showed his obedience to be the interior sacrifice of his heart, in which the essence of that virtue consists: for a mere exterior compliance accompanied with reluctance, and, much more, if it break out into complaints and murmuring, is a miserable state of constraint and compulsion, and a wilful and obstinate slavery to self-will, that domestic tyrant, which it fosters, arms, and strengthens, instead of subduing it. How grievously are those parents the enemies and spiritual murderers of their own children, who teach them to place their happiness in the gratification of their senses; and by pampering their bodies, and flattering their humours and passions, make their cravings and appetites restless, insatiable, and boundless, and their very bodies unfit for, and almost incapable of, the duties of penance, and even of the labours of civil life. Abstemiousness and temperance were easy and agreeable, and a penitential life, which appears so difficult to those who have been educated in sloth, softness, and delights, was, as it were, natural to our saint, who had, from his cradle, under the direction of his prudent and virtuous mother, inured his senses to frequent privations, his body to little severities, and his will to constant denials, by perfect meekness, humility, charity, and obedience, so that it seemed as naturally pliant to the direction of reason and virtue, as a glove is to the hand, to use the expression of one of his historians; and he was always a stranger to the conflicts of headstrong passions.
The saint performed the first part of his studies at Oxford, in which he gave very early indications of a genius above the common standard. It is indeed easy to understand with what ardour and perseverance a person of good abilities, and deeply impressed with a sense of religion, always applies himself to study, when this becomes an essential part of his duty to God. An uncommon fervour and assiduity in all religious exercises, and a genuine simplicity in his whole conduct, discovered his internal virtues, and betrayed the desire he had of concealing them. Retirement and prayer were his delight, and he sought no companions but those in whom he observed the like pious inclinations. He was yet young when Mabilia sent him and his brother Robert to finish their studies at Paris. At parting she gave each of them a hair shirt, which she advised them to use two or three days in a week, to fortify their souls against the love of pleasures, a dangerous snare to youth. It was her custom never to send them any linen, clothes, or other things, but she made some new instrument of penance a part of her present, to put them in mind of assiduously practising Christian mortification. Edmund had spent some time in that seat of arts and sciences, when his mother falling sick of a lingering illness, and perceiving that she drew near her end, ordered him over to England that she might recommend to him the care of settling his brother and his two sisters in the world. Before she died she gave him her last blessing. The saint begged the same for his brother and sisters, but she answered: “I have given them my blessing in you: for through you they will share abundantly in the blessings of heaven.” When he had closed her eyes, and paid her his last duties, he was solicitous where to place his sisters, and how to secure them against the dangers of the world, particularly as they were both extremely beautiful. But they were yet far more virtuous, and soon put him out of this pain, by declaring that it was their earnest desire to live only to God in a religious state. The saint was, in the next place, perplexed where to find a sanctuary, in which they might most securely attain to that perfection to which they aspired. Many preferred those religious houses which seem to hold a rank in the world, and are richly founded; a thing very absurd in persons who renounce the world, to profess a state of abjection and poverty; though it may be often a part of prudence to choose a retreat which is free from the moral danger of distraction and anxiety, too apt to disturb the mind when under the pressure of extreme want. St. Edmund had no views to temporal advantages in this inquiry; all his care was to find a nunnery, out of which the world was banished, and where the manner of life, regularity, example, and reigning maxims breathed the most perfect spirit of the holy institute. “To embrace a religious state,” says the saint, 1 “is the part of perfection: but to live imperfectly in it, is the most grievous damnation.” A fear of entangling himself, or others in any danger of sin, made him shun all houses in which a fortune was exacted for the admission of postulants, which the canons condemn as simony in monasteries sufficiently founded; for though presents may be received, nothing can be asked or expected for the admission, which is something spiritual: nor for the person’s maintenance, which the house in those circumstances is able and obliged to afford. After a diligent inquiry and search, the saint placed his two sisters in the small Benedictin nunnery of Catesby, in Northamptonshire, 2 famous for strictness of its discipline, where both served God with great fervour, were eminent for the innocence and sanctity of their lives, and died both successively prioresses.
St. Edmund had no sooner settled his sisters, but he went back to Paris to pursue his studies. Whilst he lived at Oxford he had consecrated himself to God by a vow of perpetual chastity, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, in whom, under God, he placed a special confidence; and this vow he observed with the utmost fidelity his whole life, shunning, with the most scrupulous care, all levity in the least action, every dangerous liberty of his senses, and all company that could be an occasion of temptation. In his study he had an image of the Mother of God before his eyes, round which were represented the mysteries of our redemption; and, in the midst of his most profound studies, his frequent ejaculations to God were so ardent, that in them he sometimes fell into raptures. How desirous soever he appeared to become learned, his zeal to become a saint was much greater. By virtue he sanctified all his studies, and the purity of his heart replenished his soul with light, which enabled him to penetrate, in them, the most knotty questions, and the most sublime truths. By his progress in learning he was the admiration of his masters, and for the purity of his life he was regarded as a miracle of sanctity. He constantly attended at the midnight office in St. Martin’s church, and after that was over, spent some hours there in prayer, early heard mass in the morning, and then repaired to the public school, without taking food or rest. He went to vespers every day; studies, works of charity, holy meditation, and private prayer, took up the rest of his time. He fasted much, and every Friday on bread and water; wore a hair shirt, and mortified his senses in every thing. Allowing very little for his own necessities, he employed in alms the rest of the money which he received for his own uses. He seldom ate above once a day, and then very sparingly, slept on the bare floor, or on a bench, and for thirty years never undressed himself to sleep, and never lay down on a bed, though he had one in his room, decently covered, in order to conceal his austerities. After matins, at midnight, he usually continued his meditation and prayer till morning, and very rarely slept any more: if he did, it was only leaning his head against the wall, as he knelt or sat a little while. Many years before he was in holy orders, he said every day the priest’s office, with salutations of the wounds of our Divine Redeemer, and a meditation on his sufferings. After he had gone through a course of the liberal arts and mathematics, and had taken the degree of master of arts, he was employed six years in teaching those sciences, especially the mathematics. Though, to avoid the danger of the distraction of the mind from heavenly things, to which these studies generally expose a soul, he used, as a counterbalance, much prayer and meditation, to nourish constantly in his heart a spirit of devotion. Yet this at length suffered some abatement; and he seemed one night to see his mother in a dream, who pointing to certain geometrical figures before him, asked him what all that signified? and bade him rather make the adorable Trinity the object of his studies. From that time he gave himself up entirely to the study of theology, and though out of humility he was long unwilling, he suffered himself to be overcome by the importunity of his friends, and proceeded doctor in that faculty, though whether this was at Paris, or Oxford, after his return to England, authors disagree. He interpreted the holy scriptures some time at Paris: it was his custom always to kiss that divine book out of religious respect, as often as he took it into his hands. As soon as he was ordained priest, he began to preach with wonderful unction and fruit. Even the lectures which he delivered in school, and his ordinary discourse were seasoned with heavenly sentiments of the divine love and praises, and breathed a spirit of God which extremely edified all who were present. Several of his auditors and scholars became afterwards eminent for sanctity and learning. Seven left his school in one day to take the Cistercian habit; one of whom was Stephen, afterwards abbot of Clairvaux, and founder of the monastery of the Bernardins at Paris.
Returning to England, he was the first who taught Aristotle’s logic at Oxford, 3 where he remained from 1219 to 1226; but in frequent missions travelled often through all Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire, preaching the word of God with great fruit and zeal. After having refused many ecclesiastical preferments, he at length accepted of a canonry, with the dignity of treasurer in the cathedral of Salisbury; but gave far the larger part of the revenue to the pool, leaving himself destitute the greatest part of the year. He had not been long in this post, when the pope sent him an order to preach the crusade against the Saracens, with a commission to receive an honorary stipend for his maintenance, from the several churches in which he should discharge that office. The saint executed the commission with great zeal; but would receive no honorary stipend, or any kind of present for his maintenance. As he was preaching in the open air near the church at Worcester, a heavy shower fell all round the place, but the saint having given his blessing, and bade the people not to disperse, not a single drop touched any of them, or fell on the spot where they stood. When he preached, the words which came from his inflamed heart were words of fire, which powerfully converted souls. Persons the most profoundly learned were moved to tears at his sermons, and many became imitators of his penance and virtues. William, surnamed Longspear, the famous Earl of Salisbury, who had lived a long time in the neglect of the essential duties of a Christian, and without ever approaching the sacraments, was so entirely converted by hearing a sermon which the saint preached, and by conversing some hours with him, that from that time he laid aside all other business to make the salvation of his soul his whole employment. The saint formed many excellent men of prayer, and was himself one of the most experienced doctors of an interior life, and most enlightened contemplatives in the church. What he chiefly inculcated was a sincere spirit of humility, mortification, and holy prayer; and he was principally solicitous to teach Christians to pray in affection and spirit. “A hundred thousand persons,” says the saint, 4 “are deceived in multiplying prayers. I would rather say five words devoutly with my heart, than five thousand which my soul does not relish with affection and understanding. Sing to the Lord wisely. 5 What a man repeats by his mouth, that let him feel in his soul.” A late French critical author 6 of a book entitled the Tradition of the Church concerning Contemplation, says of St. Edmund: “He applied himself from his youth to the contemplation of eternal truths: and so well united in himself (which is very rare) the science of the heart with that of the school, the mystical theology with the speculative, that by letting into his heart the lights of his understanding, he became a perfect contemplative, or mystic theologian; and he has no less enlightened the church by the sanctity of his life, than by the admirable spiritual tract, called, the Mirror of the Church, in which are found many excellent things relating to contemplation.”
The see of Canterbury had been long vacant, when Pope Gregory IX. pitched upon Edmund to fill it. The chapter of Canterbury was unanimous in his favour, King Henry III. gave his consent, and the election was confirmed by his holiness. Matters were gone thus far, when a deputation was sent to Salisbury, to give notice to the saint of his election, and to conduct him to his flock. Edmund, who was till then a stranger to these proceedings, protested loudly against the violence that was offered him. The deputies thus repulsed by him, applied to the bishop of Salisbury, who exerted his authority to compel the saint to acquiesce. Edmund submitted after much resistance, but had not quite conquered his fears and difficulties when he was consecrated, on the 2d of April, 1234. This dignity made no alteration in the humble sentiments or behaviour of our saint. He had still the same mean opinion of himself, and observed the same simplicity and modesty in his dress, notwithstanding the contrary fashions of the bishops of that age. His chief employment was to inquire into and relieve the corporal and spiritual necessities of his flock, and he soon got the reputation of a primitive pastor. His revenues he chiefly consecrated to the poor, and had a particular care to provide portions for young women, whose circumstances would have otherwise exposed them to great dangers. He gave vice no quarter, maintained church discipline with an apostolic vigour, and was most scrupulously solicitous and careful that justice was impartially administered in all his courts, abhorred the very shadow of bribes in all his officers, and detested the love of filthy lucre, especially in the clergy. For the reformation of abuses, he published his Constitutions in thirty-six canons, extant in Lindwood, Spelman Wilkins, Johnson, and in Labbe’s edition of the Councils. 7
Amidst a great corruption of manners, and decay of discipline, his zeal could not fail to raise him adversaries. Even the children of his own mother, the monks of his chapter, and many of his clergy, who ought to have been his comfort and his support, were the first to oppose him, and defeat his holy endeavours, for restoring regularity, the purity of Christian morals, and the true spirit of our divine religion, which its founder came from heaven to plant amongst men. Mr. Johnson says, 8 “Archbishop Edmund was a man of very scrupulous notions.” Scrupulosity is a great defect and weakness, often a grievous vice, always contrary to perfect virtue: though a passing state of scrupulosity which is humble, always ready to obey, and attended with unaffected simplicity of heart, is a usual trial of persons when they first begin to serve God in earnest; but this is easily cured. A scrupulosity which arises from constitution, is a severe trial of patience, but that which is founded in self-love and the passions, and is accompanied with wilful obstinacy, is a most dangerous and vicious disorder. But a timorousness of conscience differs infinitely from scrupulosity, and is the disposition of all who truly desire to be saved. In this path all the saints walked, with holy Job, fearing all their actions, with constant watchfulness over themselves, and attention to the general rules of the gospel, from which they never suffered custom, example, or the false maxims of the multitude to turn them aside. Upon this principle, Edmund guided himself by the rules of Christ and his Church, and opposed abuses that seemed authorized by custom, and had taken deep root.
There, perhaps, was never a greater lover of charity and peace than our saint; yet he chose to see his dearest friends break with him, and turn his implacable enemies and persecutors, rather than approve or tolerate the least point which seemed to endanger both his own and their souls. And, from their malice, he reaped the invaluable advantage of holy patience. For their bitterness and injustice against him never altered the peace of his mind, or his dispositions of the most sincere charity and tenderness towards them; and he never seemed sensible of any injuries or injustices that were done him. When some told that he carried his charity too far, he made answer: “Why should others cause me to offend God, or to lose the charity which I owe and bear them? if any persons were to cut off my arms, or pluck out my eyes, they would be the dearer to me, and would seem the more to deserve my tenderness and compassion.” He often used to say, that tribulations were a milk which God prepared for the nourishment of his soul, and that if ever they had any bitterness in them, this was mixed with much sweetness, adding, that they were, as it were, a wild honey, with which his soul had need to be fed in the desert of this world, like John Baptist in the wilderness. He added, that Christ had taught him by his own example to go to meet and salute his persecutors, and only to answer their injuries by earnestly recommending their souls to his heavenly Father. The more the saint suffered from the world, the greater were the consolations he received from God, and the more eagerly he plunged his heart into the ocean of his boundless sweetness, in heavenly contemplation and prayer. Nicholas Trivet, a learned English Dominican, in his accurate history of the reigns of six kings from Stephen, 9 tells us, that St. Edmund had always some pious and learned Dominican with him wherever he went, and that one of those who lived to be very old, assured him and many others, that the saint was found in a wonderful ecstacy: “One day,” says he, “when the saint had invited several persons of great quality to dine with him at his palace, he made them wait a long while before he came out to them. When dinner had been ready some time, St. Richard, who was his chancellor, went to call him, and found him in the chapel, raised a considerable height above the ground, in prayer.” St. Edmund, while he was archbishop, kept a decent table for others; but contrived secretly to practise at it himself the greatest abstemiousness and mortification.
The saint’s trials grew every day heavier, and threatened to overwhelm him; yet he was always calm, as the halcyon riding on the waves amidst a violent tempest. King Henry III. being by his bad economy, and the insatiable thirst of his minions, always needy, not content to exact of his subjects, both clergy and laity, exorbitant sums, kept bishoprics, abbeys, and other benefices, a long time vacant, only that, under the title of protecting the goods of the church, he might appropriate the revenues to his own use; and, when he nominated new incumbents, preferred his own creatures, who were usually strangers, or at least persons no ways qualified for such posts. St. Edmund, not bearing an abuse which was a source of infinite disorders, obtained of Pope Gregory IX. a bull, by which he was empowered and ordered to fill such vacant benefices, in case the king nominated no one, within six months after they fell vacant. But, upon the king’s complaint, his holiness repealed this concession. The zealous prelate, fearing to injure his own conscience, and appear to connive at crying abuses which he was not able to redress, passed secretly into France, thus testifying to the whole world how much he condemned such fatal enormities. Making his way to the court of France, he was graciously received by St. Lewis, all the royal family, and city of Paris, where his virtue was well known. Thence he retired to Pontigny, a Cistercian abbey in Champagne, in the diocess of Auxerre, which had formerly harboured two of his predecessors, St. Thomas, under Henry II., and Stephen Langton, in the late reign of King John. In this retreat the saint gave himself up to fasting and prayer; and preached frequently in the neighbouring churches. His bad state of health obliging him, in compliance to the advice of physicians, to change air, he removed to a convent of regular canons at Soissy or Seysi. Seeing the monks of Pontigny in tears at his departure, he told them he should return to them on the feast of St. Edmund the Martyr; which was verified by his body, after his death, being brought thither on that day. His distemper increasing, he desired to receive the viaticum, and said in presence of the holy sacrament: “In Thee, O Lord, I have believed; Thee I have preached and taught. Thou art my witness, that I have desired nothing on earth but Thee alone. As thou seest my heart to desire only Thy holy will, may it be accomplished in me.” After receiving the holy sacrament, he continued that whole day in wonderful devotion and spiritual jubilation, so as to seem entirely to forget, and not to feel his distemper; tears of joy and piety never ceased trickling down his cheeks, and the serenity of his countenance discovered the interior contentment of his holy soul. This, his joy, he expressed by alluding to a proverb then in vogue, as follows: “Men say that delight (or sport) goeth into the belly: but I say, it goeth into the heart.” 10 This inexpressible interior comfort which his soul enjoyed, wonderfully discovered itself by a cheerfulness and glow which cannot be imagined, but which then appeared in his cheeks, which were before as pale as ashes. The next day he received the holy oils, and from that time always held a crucifix in his hands, kissing and saluting affectionately the precious wounds, particularly that of the side, keeping it long applied to his lips with many tears and sighs, accompanied with wonderful interior cheerfulness and joy to his last breath. From his tender years he had always found incredible sweetness in the name of Jesus, which he had constantly in his heart, and which he repeated most affectionately in his last moments; in his agony he did not lie down but sat in a chair, sometimes leaning upon his hand, and sometimes he stood up. At length, fainting away, without any contortions or convulsions he calmly expired, never seeming to interrupt those holy exercises which conducted his happy soul to the company of the blessed, there to continue the same praises, world without end. St. Edmund died at Soissy, near Provins in Champagne, on the 16th of November, 1242, according to Godwin, having been archbishop eight years. His bowels were buried at Provins; but his body was conveyed to Pontigny, and, after seven days, deposited with great solemnity. Many miraculous cures wrought through his intercession proclaimed his power with God in the kingdom of his glory, and the saint was canonized by Innocent V. in 1246. In 1247 his body was taken up, and found entire, and the joints flexible; it was translated with great pomp, in presence of St. Lewis, Queen Blanche, and a number of prelates and noblemen. These precious relics remain to this day the glory of that monastery, which, from our saint, is called St. Edmund’s of Pontigny. Dom Martenne, the learned Maurist monk, tells us, that he saw and examined his body, which is perfectly without the least sign of corruption; the head is seen naked through a crystal glass; the rest of the body is covered with his pontifical garments; the colour of the flesh is everywhere very white. It is placed above the high altar in a shrine of wood, gilt over. One arm was separated at the desire of St. Lewis, who caused it to be shut in a gold case so as to be seen through crystal glasses. But the flesh of this arm is black, which is ascribed to an embalming when it was taken from the body. English women were allowed to enter this church, though the Cistercian Order forbade the entrance of women into their churches, which now is nowhere observed among them except in the churches of Citeaux and Clairvaux. In the treasury at Pontigny are shown St. Edmund’s pastoral ring, chalice, and paten: also his chasuble, or vestment in which he said mass, which is quite round at the bottom, according to the ancient form of such vestments. Martenne adds, that the conservation of this sacred body free from corruption, is evidently miraculous, and cannot be ascribed to any embalming during above five hundred years, without any change even in the colour. 11 Several miracles, wrought through this saint’s intercession, were authentically approved and attested by many English bishops, as Stephen, a subdeacon, who had been six years his secretary, assures us, who adds: “Numberless miracles have been performed by his invocation since his deposition, of the truth whereof I am no less certain than if I had seen them with my own eyes.” One he mentions that was wrought upon himself. He had suffered an intolerable toothache, with a painful inflammation of his left jaw for two days, without being able to take any rest, till, calling to mind his blessed father Edmund, he with prayers and tears implored his intercession, and quickly fell into a gentle slumber: when he awoke he found himself perfectly freed from the toothache, and the swelling entirely dissipated.
St. Edmund was a great proficient in the school of divine love and heavenly contemplation, because he learned perfectly to die to himself. Man’s heart is, as it were, naturally full of corruption and poison, and abandoned to many inordinate appetites, and subtle passions which successively exercise their empire over it, artfully disguise themselves, and infect even his virtues. God often condemns the hearts of those whose actions the world admires; because, having chiefly a regard to the interior dispositions, and the purity and fervour of the intention, he often sees virtues, which shine brightest in the eyes of men, to be false, and no better than disguised vice and self-love. A sincere spirit of humility, meekness, patience, obedience, compunction, and self-denial, with the practice of self-examination, penance, and assiduous prayer, must crucify inordinate self-love, disengage the affections from earthly things, and, purifying the heart, open it to the rays of divine light and grace.
Note 1. S. Edmund, in Speculo, c. 1, ex Eusebio vulgo Emiseno, potius Gallico. [back]
Note 2. This monastery is falsely said by Speed to have been of the Order of the Gilbertines, as Bishop Tanner proves in his Notitia Monastica; for, from its foundation to its dissolution under Henry VIII. it professed the rule of St. Bennet. [back]
Note 3. Wood. Hist. et Antiq. Oxon. t. 1. p. 81, t. 2, p. 9. et 81. [back]
Note 4. S. Edm. Cant. in Speculo. Bibl. Patr. t. 13, p. 362. [back]
Note 5. Ps. lvi. [back]
Note 6. F. Honoratus of St. Mary, in his historical table of contemplative writers, t. 1, p. 4. [back]
Note 7. In the eighth he expresses his scrupulous fear of simony, and filthy lucre in priests receiving retributions for masses: he who serves the altar is entitled to live by the altar, and may receive a maintenance by the honorary stipends which the church allows him to receive, on the occasion of certain functions, to which such retributions are annexed, where there is no danger of the people being withdrawn by them from religious duties; for they are never annexed to penance, the holy communion, or the like means of frequent devotion. Yet in such retributions, those incur the guilt of simony, who bargain about them, or receive them in such a manner as to sell the mass, or any other spiritual function. The danger of which abuses, with regard to annuals and trentals for the dead, the holy prelate cuts off by this canon, which Lindwood and others only render obscure by their long disquisitions. In the fifteenth canon he orders the people to be put in mind every Sunday at the parish mass, of the canons against parents whose children are overlaid, by which canons in some cases they were obliged to go into a monastery; in others to do penance for three years; and for seven, if drunkenness, or any other sin were the occasion of their overlaying a child. (See Johnson, ib. ad an. 1236, t. 2.) In the fifth canon, St. Edmund, addressing himself to all rectors, vicars, and other curates of churches, says: “We admonish, and strictly charge you, that having peace, as far as lies in you, with all men, you exhort your parishioners to be one body in Christ, by the unity of faith, and by the bond of peace: that you compose all differences that arise in your parish, with all diligence, that you make up breaches, reclaim, as far as you can, the litigious, and suffer not the sun to go down upon the anger of any of your parishioners.” The prelude to this canon expresses the holy bishop’s extreme love of peace as follows: “A great necessity of following peace lies on us, my sons, since God himself is the author and lover of peace, who came to reconcile not only heavenly, but earthly beings; and eternal peace cannot be obtained without temporal and internal peace.” Upon this canon Mr. Johnson has the following remark: “This would be very unreasonably applied to the present English clergy, who rather want friends to persuade the people to be at peace with them upon any terms.” (Collect. of English Canons, t. 2.) St. Edmund was author of the book called Speculum Ecclesiæ, or Mirror of the Church, (t. 13, Bibl. Patr.) of which work some manuscript copies in the Bodleian library, in the English college at Douay, and others, considerably differ, some being abstracts, others a Latin translation made by Will. Beaufu, (a Carmelite friar of Northampton,) from a French translation. Ten devout Latin prayers, a treatise on the seven deadly sins and on the decalogue in French, and another entitled, The Seven Sacraments briefly declared of Seynt Edmunde of Pontenie, are works of this saint in manuscript in the Bodleian library, &c. See Tanner. Biblioth. v. Richie. [back]
Note 8. S. Edmund Constit. Can. 8. [back]
Note 9. Annal. 6 Reg. Angl. ad. an. 1240. [back]
Note 10. Men seizh game God en wombe ac ich segge, game God en herte. Eustachius Monachus, S. Edmundi apellanus et secretarius, inter testimonia de S. Edm. MS. [back]
Note 11. See Voy. Littér. de Deux Religieux Bened. pp. 57, 58. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St Edmund of Abingdon
Feast day 16 November
Born around 1175, Edmund was the eldest son of the merchant, Reginald Rich, a pious man who later in life became a monk. Edmund followed in his father's footsteps and was noted also as being most devout all his life.
He was educated in grammar at Oxford University and then took an Arts course in Paris. Returning to Oxford in 1195 he taught the new logic in the Arts faculty until 1201 when he went back to Paris to study theology, it was probably during this time in France that he wrote his "Moralities on the Psalms".
After a year in Paris, Edmund again returned to England and spent some time with the Austin Canons at Merton in Surrey. In 1214 he incepted in theology at Oxford. A pioneer of Scholasticism, he gave great importance both to the literal sense and historical context of the Bible, as well as to its spiritual sense, which was the vehicle for his theological thoughts and teaching. Then in 1222 his life took a different turn when he became Treasurer of Salisbury and although he continued lecturing in the cathedral school his real work was the administrative duties of the building of the great church that was to become the new Salisbury Cathedral.
Edmund was also noted as being a most generous almsgiver. Often exhausted, Edmund would sometimes retire to the Cistercian monastery at Stanley, in Wiltshire, where the abbot, Stephen of Lexington, was a former pupil of his.
Although Edmund disliked administration and found politics distasteful, in 1233 after three elections had been quashed, the Pope appointed him archbishop of Canterbury, despite his personal feelings Edmond became a notable and effective reformer.
For his household he chose a most able and outstanding group of men, including Richard, later of Chichester. He claimed and exercised metropolitan rights of visitation, this was often challenged and he had to resort to litigation to maintain his authority, not the least with his own monastic chapter at Canterbury.
His dealings with Cardinal Otto, the papal legate were reported to be somewhat stormy, it seems they were friendlier than is often supposed. Edmund resisted royal interference and mismanagement and grew in power and prestige, during the period 1234-6, mediating between king and barons, he united the Church in England into political action and averted a civil war.
Although Edmund resisted some papal appointments to English benefices it did not stop him seeking the pope's help in his disputes with the king. It was on his way to see the pope that he died at Soissy on 19th November 1240. He was buried at the Cistercian abbey at Pontigny, his favourite order.
His body was never translated to Canterbury, because the Black Benedictine community there resented what they regarded as Edmund's attacks on their independence. Edmund was canonised in 1246, at the first celebration of his feast, Henry III offered a chalice, a white samite vestment and 20 marks for candles at his shrine.
At Salisbury a collegiate church and an alter in the cathedral were named after him, while through the Sarum calendar his cult became well known, particularly in Abingdon, his birthplace and Catesby, in Northants, where his sisters, Margaret and Alice were nuns. He is also remembered at Oxford University where St. Edmund Hall takes its name from him.
A Short Life of St Edmund of Abingdon
Feast Day: 20 November
Edmund was born at Abingdon, near Oxford, about 1175, and was known during his lifetime as Edmund of Abingdon His father, Reginald, seems to have been a sufficiently well-to-do tradesman for his fellow townsmen to have given him the surname 'Rich'. (St Edmund of Abingdon is still mistakenly called St Edmund Rich. For forty years Doctor A. B. Emden has been trying to dislodge this misnomer It owes its origin to Anthony Wood, the Oxford antiquary, who wrongly assumed that St Edmund inherited his father's soubriquet, 'e Rich'. He did not. Contemporary references to him before his promotion as archbishop are to Master Edmund of Abingdon.) His mother, Mabel, gave him an austere upbringing and exerted a strong influence on him. He went to the University at Oxford when he was about 12 years old, and three or four years later, to Paris. On is return from Paris he was Regent of Arts at Oxford for six years. HIs mother was dead and he had a dream of her, which he interpreted as a message to turn to more serious studies. He went to Paris again to study theology and returned about 1214, as Regent of Theology at Oxford.
He must have been something of a character in the eyes of the students. Long hours at night spent in prayer had the result that he often 'nodded off' during his lectures. Like any of us who find ourselves in that embarrassing position, he would wake with a start and say: 'I was not asleep - just thinking'. He would not take any payment from poor scholars, and when the richer scholars came to pay, he would ask them to leave the money on his window-sill, so as not to embarrass them if it was not quite the right amount. One of his dictums of this period reveals him as the scholar and the saint: 'Study as though you are to live for ever: live as though you are to die tomorrow'. There is a long-established tradition that he utilised his lecture-fees to build the Lady Chapel of St Peter's in the East at Oxford.
Richard Poore appointed him Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral in 1222, with the annexed prebend of Calne, and he had the responsibility of raising the money to complete the choir of the Cathedral.
After the death in 1231 of Richard le Grand, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Canterbury Chapter proposed as his successor first Ralph Neville, Bishop of Chichester, then their prior, John of Sittingbourne, and then John Blund, canon of Chichester, but for one reason or another the Pope refused to confirm any of these appointments.
Since the See had been vacant for four years, Pope Gregory IX personally intervened and 'gave the monks power to elect Master Edmund, Canon of Salisbury'. It was a surprising appointment for, apart from his learning, Edmund was known mainly as an ascetic and a recluse. Indeed, on his first visit to Rome in 1238, Pope Gregory was to chide him: 'You would make a good monk', but it was this same Gregory who had personally chosen him to be archbishop.
Edmund was genuinely reluctant to accept office. He hesitated, apparently for two days, and the argument which finally broke down his resistance was that, if he refused, the Pope might very well appoint a foreign ecclesiastic to the archbishopric. He was consecrated at Canterbury on Laetare Sunday, 2nd April 1234.
He had immediate success, but it was virtually his only success. Within months of his consecration, by fearlessly exposing the evils which were threatening the land, he averted civil war and reconciled Henry III and the Barons, and the King was forced to expel the Poitevins. The reason for Edmund's success was undoubtedly the high regard in which the men of his day held physical penances and Edmund had practised these to an extraordinary degree since youth. Men listened to him because of his virtue.
It is of special interest to us in Dover that one of the Barons who was reconciled with the King was Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent. De Burgh had founded the Maison Dieu in 1203, and in 1216 had successfully defended Dover Castle, and defeated the French in a naval engagement in the Channel.
Edmund's success, however, turned the King against him, and the appointment of Cardinal Otto as Papal Legate, at the King's request, has been seen as a move to embarrass Edmund. In fact, Otto was a reasonable man, whose advice was sought both by Edmund and by Grosseteste, who did not meddle in the purely domestic affairs of the English Church, and who could not be bought by the King.
He did, however, introduce foreign clerics to English benefices, which aroused strong opposition among the English Bishops, and was the cause of a deterioration in relations between Edmund and the Pope, The Pope advised him to accept the inevitable gracefully, and although Edmund counselled his fellow bishops 'to make a virtue of necessity', his own principles were too strong, and it was still a ground of bitter contention between him and the Pope at the time of his death
Edmund was not intended by nature to be a bishop. He was happiest at Oxford or in his rectory at Calne: among ordinary people, instructing them, teaching them to pray: 'five words well said are better than five thousand said without devotion'), reconciling sinners and helping them to die. By our standards, his moral teaching was incredibly severe. He condemned luxury or comfort in any form, and was distrustful of sex. He held that a man could not be good and live at court. He prayed much and treated his body mercilessly In the thirteenth century he was every man's idea of a saint.
He was not an administrator and had little time for what we would call routine work.
His complaints against the King were many. Not only did Henry delay the appointment of bishops so that he could have possession of the ecclesiastical revenue during the vacancies, but he raised levies on the Church to pay for his won and the Pope's needs. After his marriage to Eleanor of Provence, foreign ecclesiastics from her retinue had been appointed to English benefices, and more recently he was gerrymandering the Winchester Chapter to secure the appointment of a relative as bishop. Yet a further source of friction was Edmund's opposition to the marriage of Simon de Montfort to the King's sister because of her vow of perpetual widowhood.
His seven years as Archbishop were unhappy years. The most serious of his conflicts, however, was with the monastic Chapters of Canterbury and Rochester. Originally, bishops had been monks and members of the monastic communities, but in the thirteenth century, with the rise of secular bishops, there was an inbuilt danger of conflict between them and the monks who formed their cathedral chapters. Each was concerned to prevent any encroachment upon their privileges.
In Edmund's case, tension was heightened by his desire to establish a secular collegiate house at Maidstone to provide for clerics on his administration staff. It was a reasonable proposal, and Cardinal Otto had held an enquiry and approved his plans, but the monks were suspicious that their position was being undermined.
Although feelings between Edmund and the monks were bad, the issues between them were relatively small. The latest was over the right to nominate the prior and some petty forgeries were involved. It was the general situation as much as any one incident which led to Edmund's excommunicating the whole Cathedral Chapter.
There was enough to discuss with the Pope when Edmund set out for an ad limina visit to Rome in October 1240 - his relations with the Pope, his relations with the Canterbury monks - but when he reached Pontigny he was a dying man. He turned back in the hope of reaching England, but death overtook him in a small Augustine priory at Soisy on 16th November 1240.
The scenes described on page 11 give an idea of the veneration in which people held him. His cult is certainly as popular in France as in England.
He was canonized by Innocent IV on 16th December 1246, at Lyons. Eustace of Faversham had already written his Life as part of the general presentation of his cause of canonization. This Eustace was a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury, and Edmund's chaplain. Edmund feared that the monks at Canterbury might take vindictive action against Eustace on account of his loyalty to him, and one of his last acts at Soisy, three days before he died, was to write a testimonial letter, indemnifying him in advance against any action the monks might take. It was also, no doubt, for the same reason that he had written the previous March to the sub-prior and monks of St Martin's Proiry at Dover, appointing Eustace to be their prior, although there is no evidence that he ever held the appointment.
It might be felt that, because of all the conflicts around him, Edmund had a contentious character. He was an Englishman and a strong nationalist, and was determined to rid England of foreign influences, whether these were foreigners in high political places, or high ecclesiastical places. He was more successful in the first than in the second. He was a Churchman, determined that the Church should be in the hands of men dedicated to God and to the people, and free of political influence to do its work unhampered: determined too, that its revenue should be spent on the needs of worship and on the needs of the poor, and not on luxurious living, the King's favourites or foreign wars. And he was a saint for whom holiness, his own and his countrymen's, took precedence before all else. In any age, such a man will meet opposition, but in the thirteenth century he was not only opposed, he was admired. Holiness was the one weapon left to a churchman - there were enough diplomats and politicians. They could be deposed,, killed,, circumvented, but there was no answer to holiness. Death did not help - it only made a martyr. Holiness was recognised as right, but it prevented a challenge to be avoided, if at all possible.
Henry III died on Edmund's feast day, 16th November 1272. One can be sure that Edmund assisted him by his prayers.
In recognition of Henry's benefactions to the Maison Dieu the Master was required to arrange for a mass for the repose of his soul to be said annually on 16th November. The last of these masses was said on 16th November 1534.