Saint Chad, Bishop

March 2

Today is the feast day of Saint Chad. Ora pro nobis.

Saint Chad (Ceadda) was one of four brothers who were monks and priests.  Chad was trained in the Celtic tradition by St Aidan of Lindisfarne. He ministered in many places to the Anglo-Saxon Church and eventually set up the episcopal see of Lichfield in central England. He is patron of Birmingham archdiocese and cathedral.

Saint Chad was trained by St Aidan at Lindisfarne.  Chad and his older brother Cedd were Anglo-Saxon youths educated at the Celtic monastery of St Aidan at Lindisfarne. They had two other brothers who were also monks and priests, Caelin and Cynibil. After the death of St Aidan, Chad went for some time to Ireland for monastic formation with his friend Egbert (also a saint – 24 April) before he was ordained a priest.

In AD 658, at the request of King Aethelwald of Deira, he also established a monastery at Lastingham in Yorkshire, standing just on the edge of the North York Moors. Though often absent, he frequently returned thither from his London diocese and, at a time of the AD 664 plague, he died there. Upon his death-bed, Cedd bequeathed the care of the monastery to his brother, Chad, who was then still in Ireland.

St. Chad ruled the Lastingham Abbey with great care and prudence, and received all who sought his hospitality with kindness and humility. However, he arrived in Northumbria during a period of religious change and political upheaval. Having, at the Synod of Whitby, rejected the ways of the Irish Church in favour of those of Rome, the Northern diocese quickly found itself short of a Bishop. Eventually, the heavily pro-Roman and, therefore to some factions, unpopular St. Wilfred given the Northumbrian Bishopric which he transferred to York.

Impressed by Chad’s humility, Theodore quickly re-consecrated him as bishop of Mercia, which covered virtually the whole of central Britain, and he set up his see at Lichfield. He built a monastery near his cathedral where he enjoyed God in solitude with the seven or eight monks he had with him.

Chad continued to journey on foot instead of horseback, no matter how great the distance involved. The horse was regarded in Chad’s tradition as a symbol of power and might. St Aidan was celebrated for giving away to the poor a horse he received as a gift from the king of Northumbria. Chad’s insistence on walking was rejected by Theodore. He ordered Chad to use a horse for long journeys. Bede tells us that there was a direct confrontation about the issue and that Theodore actually lifted Chad into the saddle.

Chad worked in Mercia and Lindsey (Lincolnshire) for only two and a half years before he too died during a plague. Yet Bede could write in a letter that Mercia came to the faith and Essex was recovered for it by the two brothers Cedd and Chad. In other words, Bede considered that Chad’s two years as bishop were decisive in christianising Mercia.

Chad died on the 2nd March AD 672 and was first buried in St. Mary’s Church at Lichfield. Like many cathedrals of the time, however, there were many churches in the Episcopal complex and when the Church of St. Peter was completed, his bones were translated thither. Frequent miraculous cures were attested in both places.

Image: Monastic Chapel 1920, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York (7)

Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff


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