mercredi 26 octobre 2016

Saint EATA de HEXHAM, abbé bénédictin et évêque

Saint Eata

Abbé et évêque à Hexham ( v. 686)

Eata fait partie de la douzaine de jeunes anglais que saint Aidan éduqua à Lindisfarne. A la demande de saint Colman, il devint abbé de Melrose puis fonda un monastère à Ripon dans le Yorkshire. Après le synode de Whitby, Eata, décrit par Bède comme un homme de paix, adopta la tradition romaine et devint évêque de Bernicia (dans le diocèse de York). Il fut évêque d'Hexham un an avant de mourir de dysenterie. Il est enterré près de l'église Wilfrid.

À Hexham en Angleterre, vers 686, saint Eata, évêque. Formé par saint Aidan, c’était un homme d’une grande douceur et simplicité, qui dirigea plusieurs monastères et Églises et, revenu à Hexham, à la fois abbé et évêque, ne renonça jamais à sa manière de vivre ascétique.

Martyrologe romain

Eata of Hexham, OSB B (RM)

Died c. 686. It is impossible to write about Eata, the 7th century English saint, without going back to Saint Aidan, and from Saint Aidan to Saint Paulinus of York, and from Saint Paulinus to Saint Augustine (Austin) of Canterbury, and from Saint Augustine to Saint Gregory the Great who began this chain reaction. Nor should we forget the Venerable Bede without whose Ecclesiastical History we would never have heard of Saint Eata, nor Saint Cuthbert, who was Eata's close friend.

In the 7th century, England was divided into the Heptarchy, seven independent kingdoms in none of which was Christianity firmly established. At the request of Saint Oswald, king of Northumbria, Saint Aidan had gone from Iona to Lindisfarne--the Holy Island--and from there had begun to evangelize the northern parts of England. Aidan himself and many of his monks came originally from Ireland and therefore followed the Celtic usages which differed in many ways from those of Rome.

Pope Saint Gregory's plan was to send a properly organized group to England, rather than rely on the isolated efforts of the northern missionaries. The man he chose was the prior of a monastery that he had founded in Rome, Saint Augustine of Canterbury. In 596, he landed in Kent with a group of 40 monks.

They had to start from nothing, but fortunately they quickly enlisted the support of Bertha, the wife of King Saint Ethelbert--just as Saint Paulinus won the support of Saint Ethelburga, sister of Eadbald, and Saint Remigius won that of Saint Clotilde, wife of Clovis. Augustine received the 'pallium' and became the first archbishop of England, establishing his see at Canterbury.

At the time of Augustine's death, which took place shortly after that of Gregory the Great, relations between the Roman and Celtic churches were still strained. Apart from their differences over usage and organization, the situation was complicated by the resentment felt by some of the Celts towards the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes who only a relatively short while before had driven them out of their own country and persecuted their religion. So it was left to a number of saints, among them Eata, to effect a union between the Celtic and Roman Christians, their personal saintliness persuading the ones to abate their racial pride and the others to make concessions.

The first saint who went to Northumbria was a Roman one, Saint Paulinus, who had been sent by Gregory the Great to assist Saint Augustine of Canterbury. The next one was the Celtic Saint Aidan, who had established his monastery at Lindisfarne and who also founded a monastery at Ripon. It was at Ripon that Eata, who had been born an Anglo-Saxon and was one of the 12 English boys brought to Northumbria by Saint Aidan, was educated in the Celtic observance. When Saint Wilfrid arrived at Ripon, Eata left it to become abbot at Melrose, which was attached to Lindisfarne.

As a result of the Synod of Whitby, which was held in 664, the Roman usage was extended throughout England. Eata accepted the Roman liturgical observances.

Saint Colman, who had succeeded Saint Aidan as abbot of Lindisfarne refused to accept the decision and withdrew from his position. Reportedly he requested that Saint Eata take his place. At the same time Saint Cuthbert became prior, and they both fully accepted the Roman usage and liturgy.

In 678 Theodore, who had been consecrated in Rome as the new archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Saint Vitalian, met Eata in York and at once consecrated him as bishop of Bernicia. It was a wise choice, for Eata quickly showed himself to be worthy of his office. He and Saint Cuthbert were often together, travelling from Melrose to Ripon and to Lindisfarne. Later Eata and Cuthbert exchanged sees, and Eata became bishop of Hexham, where he remained until his death.

Eata seems to have been a kind and gentle man, more so even than Cuthbert, and vastly more so than Colman or that other saint, Wilfrid, who quarreled so violently with Theodore. He died in 686 and was buried in the Benedictine Abbey of Hexham. There is a legend that when, in 1113, plans were made to disinter his body and take it to York, he appeared in a dream to the archbishop of York and told him to leave his mortal remains in peace (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia). 

St. Eata

Second Bishop of Hexham; date of birth unknown; died 26 October, 686. Whether this disciple of St. Aidan was of the English, or of the aboriginal Pictish, race, there is no means of judging. As early as 651 he was elected Abbot of Melrose, which was then within the metropolitan jurisdiction of York. With the increase of the Christian population in northeastern Britain, the spiritual government of a territory was so wide as that which was then called Northumbria became too heavy a charge for one see; accordingly, in 678 Archbishop Theodore constituted Bernicia (that part of the Northumbrian realm which lay to the north of the River Tees) a suffragan diocese and consecrated Eata its bishop. The new diocese was to have two episcopal sees, one at Hexham and the other at Lindisfarne, at the two extremities of what is now the County of Northumberland. Eata was to be styled "Bishop of the Bernicians". This arrangement lasted only three years, and the See of Hexham was then assigned to Trumbert, while Eata kept Lindisfarne. In 684, after the death of Trumbert, St. Cuthbert was elected Bishop of Hexham, but when the latter expressed a desire to remain in his old home rather than remove to a more southern see, Eata readily consented to exchange with him, and for the last two years of his life occupied the See of Hexham, while Cuthbert ruled as bishop at Lindisfarne. Like most of the early saints of the English Church, St. Eata was canonized by general repute of sanctity among the faithful in the regions which he helped to Christianize. His feast is kept on 26 October, the day of his death.

Macpherson, Ewan. "St. Eata." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 26 Oct. 2016 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Christine J. Murray.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.