Today at the North East Catholic History Society we had a talk by Richard Lomas, a retired lecturer from the history department at Durham University, on the life of St Wilfrid. I was particularly interested to hear this as St Wilfrid has become a bit of an interest of mine since being parish priest of St Wilfrid`s Gateshead for ten years. One thing I had forgotten, but remember thinking about when I was in Gateshead, was that 2009 marks the 1300th anniversary of the saint`s death. The anniversary falls on April 24th to be exact.
Often in diocesan events when our local saints are mentioned it is always the holy trio of Aidan, Cuthbert and Bede. Wilfrid has fallen out of favour. (I asked bishop Dunn why this was once and he told me it was because Wilfrid was `too Roman`. I presume he was joking.) However even given his current status I thought there might have been some recognition of the 1300th anniversary of this important figure in the life of the Church in the North East.
As Richard Lomas explained in his talk today, I expect part of the reason Wilfrid is politely put aside is that aspects of his life are less than edifying in that he spent a lot of time going to Rome to ensure that he remained the only bishop in Northumbria against attempts to create other sees. A lot of it was about him standing on his dignity, defending his own rights and travelling around with a huge retinue including his own private army. While this certainly isn`t how a saint is expected to behave, it was due to Wilfrid`s drive and love of things Roman that the Synod of Whitby decided that the Church in Northumbria would follow Roman rather than the out-of-kilter Celtic ways. He also converted the kingdom of the South Saxons during one exile (and taught them how to fish!).
I suppose Wilfrid may not be to everyone`s taste but I don`t think he should be forgotten. Has anyone heard of anything going on for his 1300th anniversary?