Tuesday, 11 January 2011

When Soldiers Did Penance for their SIns

There's one thing I love about our Church and that is that it is Catholic. OK, call me Mr. Obvious, but I mean of course that it is universal. It is like the bedrock on which nations are established, grow and are nurtured.

When I have been to Catholic churches, from my local parish, to on pilgrimage, to on holiday, I love seeing the variants in statues, styles and congregations. Even in our own land (Wales!) we can see in our own congregations the Welsh, English, Irish mixing freely with the Poles, Spaniards, French and even the Asians and Africans.

Like the nations, we as peoples are nurtured and our own cultures grow in the bosom of the Church.

St Guthlac receiving the tonsure
A part of the Catholic nature of the church of course goes back in history and so we can read of the Catholic Church's growth in various nations and cultures, some of which have since died out (primarily the Roman Empire) and other places which have since lost their Faith through the Reformation (Wales being an example). Then of course there is the brave example of those like the Jesuits who took the Faith to India, China and Japan.

So it is I enjoy stumbling upon stories, pictorial or written, and histories of Our Faith and especially of Saints I've never heard of before.

Just the other day I picked up an old school text-book entitled 'The Medieval World' from a charity shop and in that there's a picture of St Guthlac receiving the tonsure (as pictured here).

So I couldn't help but look up St Guthlac and discover something more of who he was and what he did.

I think St Guthlac is the kind of Saint that can set a good example for Catholics today. The England of his own day (freshly taken from the British/Welsh [boo], still fractured and yet to be unified) would have still been a heavily pagan land, and he himself must surely have killed in his role as a Saxon soldier prior to his becoming a monk and undergoing years of penance for his sins.

How unlike the political class today who send men off to die in highly dubious wars, often in the name of Christianity (or at least dressed in its terms), but far from doing penance for killing innocents, they sell books, get on the lecture trail and more to try to justify their unjust wars and rake in the millions.

St Guthlac had blood on his own hands, understood that he would pay for his sins in this world or in purgatory and so did penance.

Sadly, I cannot help but think our own times are more pagan than the Anglo-Saxon lands of the 7th Century.

St Guthlac


  1. I was surprised to learn that Battle Abbey, on the site of the Battle of Hastings, was built by William the Conqueror in reparation for having caused the deaths of so many people during his invasion. He, too, seems to have had the right idea.

  2. A great many of the UKs Abbeys and churches were built as reperation by wealthy landowners.
    King Henry did public penance for the murder of St Thomas a Becket.
    The people of the old days were not afraid to be seen as faithful.

  3. Personally I don't think Tony Blair should be able to receive Communion until he publicly apologises for his illegal wars, abortion policies, and pro-homosexual laws.