As I said a few days ago, I though we could use some of our holiday time to go on virtual pilgrimage, and thanks to Sheila Billingsley who alerted us to this Norwegian saint, we can start with Olav, the Holy King of Norway who died in 1030, in a world very different to our own.
I was especially glad of her recommendation as I was unwell and needed to find an on-line Mass to attend. She pointed me to a Roman Catholic High Mass for the Feast of Saint Olav, presided by Bishop Erik Varden of Trondheim in the Lutheran Cathedral in that city – the church where Dr Varden was ordained Bishop.
Bishop Varden makes Olav sound like a real human being:
Sigrid Undset wrote of St Olav, patron saint of our diocese and country: ‘Saint Olav was the seed our Lord chose to sow in Norway’s earth because it was well suited to the weather here and to the quality of the soil.’ What makes his story so compelling is the fact that we can follow, step by step, the work of grace in his life. Olav was not a ready-made saint; he began adult life as a viking mercenary. Though through his encounter with Christ in the Church, through decisive sojourns in Rouen and Kyiv, then his final, dramatic return to Norway, where he died a martyr, supernatural light gradually took hold of him and suffused him, radiant in his body even after death.
Do read the life of Saint Olav at the link above and dip into the celebrations on youtube. The homily is on the website in English and German.
As I followed the Mass, I was impressed to see the Church Universal alive in two ways in Trondheim: the warm friendship between the two churches, Lutheran and Catholic, and the very international community which is the Catholic church in Trondheim.
Saint Olav was killed in battle with King Canute of England and Denmark in 1030 and soon counted as a martyr. He is patron saint of Norway, though he had been rejected by the leading warriors who had accepted Canute’s bribes. No doubt some of this money had come from the Danegeld, paid to the Danes to stop them from looting through England.
Tomorrow we visit an earlier English king, whose cult Canute promoted in Suffolk: King Edmund the Martyr.