"I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility." (St. Anthony the Great)
In the 7th century, a young man raised by monks on Iona, faced a tough decision. He had resolved to march south, determined to unite Northumbria after the death of his brother. The battle was to be fought at Heavenfield and his Welsh enemies were far superior in number. Having converted to Christianity at a young age, Oswald decided to raise a large wooden cross on the soon-to-be battlefield and asked his soldiers to gather near to pray with him.
The battle was decisive and Oswald became king, uniting Northumbria under his banner. As Oswald’s popularity grew, many in this pagan land were curious about the new deity, the God of the Christians who had won their king’s obedience.
History tells us that King Oswald was concerned not only with the restoration of Northumbria, but the spiritual state of those within his realm as well. His sainthood is traced to the fact that he re-introduced Christianity to this northern kingdom, sending for an evangelical Bishop from Iona to help with the task. When St. Aidan arrived to preach the Gospel and win converts, it was the king himself who often acted as interpreter since Bishop Aidan only spoke Gaelic.
This noble king served Christ by serving his people. He fed the hungry and brought the light of Christ to many lives. It is said that when he lay dying on the battlefield, slain by the pagan King of Mercia, he prayed for his bodyguards who had fallen with him, the salvation of Northumbria and his enemies.
May our world leaders endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Oswald of Northumbria, ever seeking the way of the cross.
Lord God almighty, who so kindled the faith of your servant Oswald with your Spirit that he set up the sign of the passion in his kingdom and turned his people to your light: grant that we, being fired with the same Spirit, may ever be found faithful servants of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
written by James Kiefer
*prayer found here.