Our local Saint Mildred, a Saxon princess who had a continental education and rejected the idea of a political marriage to become a nun, has her feast today. She reminds me to pray for her sisters, living today at Minster Abbey; and also to forage the walnuts from my favourite tree.
It’s harvest time because right now the nuts have not yet grown their woody shells inside those green carapaces. Off the tree they come to get pricked all over with a fork, then left to steep in brine for a few days before drying off for a few days more.
The juice has stained my fingers to the complexion of a chain-smoker, if only for a few days. But when the nuts are fully dry for pickling they will be as black as the habits of the Benedictine Sisters who live in Saint Mildred’s Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet. By Christmas the nuts will be sweet-and-sour and spicy.
Only the first and third of those adjectives apply to the sisters at Minster!
Saint Mildred, pray for us.
Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent. John Salmon
Worth Gate Thursday 19th January, 12‐12.30pm
St Mildred’s Church, Church Lane, CT1 2PP Business and commerce Innovation and integrity
Wincheap was one of Canterbury’s thriving markets, with traders coming in from far and wide to sell their wares. Today we pray for the thousands of businesses which make this city such a vibrant place to live. We pray that those who do business here will operate in honesty, integrity and generosity.
Though ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas had been all unaware, the day of their visit to the monastery at Minton was the feast of St. Domniva, its foundress. In the course of the various services they attended throughout their stay and by recourse to some fragments of conversation had with a few of the more knowledgeable of the nuns, ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas were able to piece together bits of her fascinating story. It seemed that Domniva (before she became a saint) had been a princess of one of the royal Anglo-Saxon houses and a renowned world traveler. There was a massive amount of (circumstantial) evidence indicating that one of her journeys may have even taken her- along with a sizeable entourage since she was, after all, a princess- to sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that she discovered a rare and wonderful animal in the sprawling market of a nameless and long-vanished city called a dik-dik. Smitten by its elegant grace, the noble Domniva purchased the animal for a magnificent sum and brought it back with her when she returned to the foggy shores of East Kent.
The dik-dik appeared as a perfectly formed young deer…except that its coat of dense fur was a soft, buff-gray peppered with nearly invisible spots. For all that the magnificent animal resembled a member of any number of herds ranging the length and breadth of the Five Kingdoms, it only stood around six inches tall; a miniature version of its British cousins with ebony hoofs no larger than the tip of its mistress’ forefinger. Used to a much warmer clime in the dense acacia forests of its African homeland, it nevertheless also was able to appreciate the overgrown nature of the English countryside (and nearly all of England was countryside in the late seventh century) and, discovering that a brisk frisk was an excellent way to dodge the chill, it soon began to thrive. Everyone who saw it fell instantly in love. Perhaps, the dik-dik should not be referred to as an ‘it’ since it was a young stag, sporting a full rack of arching antlers, and proudly answered to the name Boanerges, which the Lady Domniva had given it.
At some point in time there was a blood feud, as seemed so common among royalty then and now and, in order to make things right, the king of Kent decided to build a monastery. Fortunately for the king, the Lady Domniva had also become very pious and wished to retire from the tiresome frivolities of life at court. And so it was settled- Domniva would found the monastery and serve as its first abbess. A site was duly chosen on the shore of the mighty Wansum river, which, bisecting a large mass of land, created the Isle of Thanet. It was then that the dik-dik established himself forever in the annals of England and lore of the great southeast.
To be continued
In the ‘Dark Ages’ there seems to have been a high degree of enlightenment among the noble women of England and Wales. Think of Hilda or Winifride. Not such dark times at all.
There are people ready to cast our own time as a new dark age. But once again, I suggest, not so very dark.
Think of today’s Saint Eanswythe: like her niece Mildred of Minster, a Kentish maid. Eanswythe died around 640, just 43 years after Pope Gregory sent Augustine to convert the people of Kent. She was not the first teenager to feel that marriage was not all a girl could aspire to. The cloistered life appealed: prayer, community and scholarship. Her father took some persuading, but with his help she founded the earliest sisters’ monastery in England, overlooking the sea at Folkestone. She was a brave pioneer.
No sign of her original church remains, but Eanswythe’s relics were successfully hidden at the Reformation and can now be visited at the Church that bears her name.
And today’s young people? Here is part of a reflection from Ignatius who was at the World Youth Day in Krakow:
The entire World Youth Day was one big Holy Communion, in which I found Jesus over and over and over again. We were all there together, being made one, by the one body, the one love, of our one Lord.
Now, the real challenge begins: to take God’s mercy home with us and out to the world…
And here’s Christina:
I have always wanted the truth.
Being raised Catholic, I was poorly educated in the Faith. Probably because, being in a wheelchair, people assumed that I was “closer to God” and, therefore, going straight to Heaven after death. But, that bias is ignorant of the fullness of reality – and I want the fullness of reality. I want the fullness of truth.
And there is many another to give us hope. God be with them. And may he help Team Agnellus to proclaim the Truth in all our posts.
Women may have been seen as second-class humans in past ages, yet there have always been saints who stood aside from what society and family expected of them to live as God called them to.
While aristocratic women may have had more resources to be able to arrange this, they would have been lined up for profitable marriages arranged by others. Not necessarily a doorway to happiness or fulfilment at any level. We have already met the Saxon princesses Eanswythe and Mildred who were given the grace to hear the call and to convince others that they were doing God’s will by entering religious life. Clare was another such aristocrat, and an influence still felt today.
Let us pray to God our Father:
- for all Franciscan sisters especially those at the Franciscan International Study Centre;
- for all women and girls whose lives are limited by other people’s expectations and prejudices, whether in education, employment, life choices or female genital mutilation;
- for those men and women perpetuating the oppression of girls and women;
- for the Franciscan family around the world.
Saint Clare, Pray for us.
.Picture by Simone Martini
Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent. John Salmon
Happy Feast to our friends at Minster Abbey! Today is Saint Mildred’s day. She was one of those exemplary Saxon and Welsh princesses who wanted a life of prayer, scholarship and service rather than diplomatic marriage. She was not the founder of Minster Abbey, her mother was, but Mildred joined the community and eventually became Abbess. She is still held in affection locally, as evidenced by this window from Preston, some six miles distant.
From all at Agnellus Mirror and the Franciscan International Study Centre, to all at Minster:
Happy Saint Mildred’s Day!