A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Righteous Nonna (d374). Commemoration of the death of the pious Christian mother of St Gregory the Theologian, who c320 married a rich pagan landowner, a follower of the sect of the Supremists (Hypsistarii) who venerated a supreme god and observed certain Jewish rituals whilst at the same time worshipping fire. Through the prayers of Nonna, her husband had a vision of a verse of one of David’s Psalms and was baptised in 325 by the Bishops going to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, ordained presbyter and then consecrated Bishop of Nazianzos, devoting himself totally to the Church. As the wife of a Bishop, Nonna was made a deaconess and henceforth occupied herself in performing works of charity. Her final years brought Nonna many sorrows. In 368, her brilliant younger son Caesarios died a young man and the following year her daughter also died. In 374, her hundred-year-old husband died and after that St Nonna almost never emerged from the church and soon died at prayer on 5 August 374. Saint Nonna was a model wife and mother, a remarkable woman who devoted her life to God and the Church without neglecting her other responsibilities. Because of her spiritual, social and domestic concerns, she is considered to be a most fitting patron for Orthodox women’s organizations. Image: bookstore.nevskys.com.
St Oswald (c604-41) Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican Communion Feast Day and Church of England Lesser Festival commemorating the death of the King of Northumbria who had inherited his dead father’s heathenism but grew up in exile on Iona with the young Irish Aidan, where the monks converted Oswald so that when he decided to fight to regain his father’s kingdom he entered the battle carrying a wooden cross made by his own hand to show that he fought as a Christian against a non-Christian foe. He defeated the British ruler Cadwallon ap Cadfan and brought the two Northumbrian kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira once again under a single ruler. As King, he turned naturally to Iona to ask for a missionary to convert his people and the monks sent Aidan, who was given a free choice of land on which to found a monastery and chose Lindisfarne, near Oswald’s main palace at Bamburgh so that the King and the new Bishop Aidan could work together for the conversion of the people. They promoted the spread of Christianity in Northumbria, Oswald being a saintly king, the most powerful ruler in Britain but a man of prayer and compassion who not only gave the poor food but also the silver dish on which it was served, to be broken up and distributed among them. Like all Anglo-Saxon kings, Oswald was a warrior who expected to die on the battlefield but his death in the Battle of Maserfield against Penda the pagan king of Mercia on 5 August 641 was seen as a martyr’s death. So great was Oswald’s compassion for the sick that even the earth on which he died passed on its blessing by healing people and animals that passed over it, as it did when put into water for the sick to drink. When Oswald’s niece later wished to have his body translated to at Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire, the Benedictine monks there were reluctant, as Northumbria and Mercia were not on friendly terms, but a light from the coffin at night persuaded them to take it and when they washed the remains and poured away the water they found that the ground into which it had sunk had the power to heal. Oswald’s head was translated to Durham Cathedral, together with the remains of St Cuthbert, a later Bishop of Lindisfarne. A particular Medieval cult developed for St Oswald and monks from Peterborough stole the incorrupt arm that had made the battlefield cross, which they placed in a new Oswald’s Chapel, now part of Peterborough Cathedral. Image: britannica.com.
The Mayflower. Anniversary of 1620 sailing from Plymouth of two English ships that aimed to transport families of English Pilgrims to the New World to seek freedom from Henry VIII’s new Church of England. Puritans sought to reform and purify the Church of England but the Pilgrims chose to live as religious Separatists, as they believed that the Church of England was beyond redemption due to its Roman Catholic past and its resistance to reform that forced them to pray in private. The Pilgrims on the Mayflower had spent since 1608 in the Netherlands, where they could worship freely, but they decided to cross the Atlantic to what they considered a new Promised Land where they would establish the Plymouth Colony. The second ship, the Speedwell, caused them to return twice to Dartmouth for repairs before being abandoned, the Mayflower sailing alone on 16 September. After a difficult ten weeks at sea, Mayflower, overloaded with 102 passengers, about 33 crew, stores and livestock, reached America, dropping anchor near Cape Cod, Massachusetts on 21 November. Their delayed arrival meant that only half survived the first Winter, although the local Native Americans taught them food-gathering and other survival skills so that the following year these Pilgrim Fathers could celebrate, along with the Indigenous people after the Autumn harvest, what is now Thanksgiving Day. The 1607 Jamestown settlers had seen 440 of their 500 die during the first six months of Winter due to starvation and the indigenous peoples’ hostility, but the Separatists said: “We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us, and that he will graciously prosper our indeavours, according to the simplicity of our hearts therein.” After fifty years of peaceful coexistence between the Pilgrim Fathers and the Wampanoag tribe, the leader of the latter died and his son tried in 1675 to unite neighbouring tribes to drive out the immigrants, destroying a dozen New England towns and killing 1,000 colonists before being defeated and killed, his widow and child being sold into slavery. On the 2020 400th Anniversary, the Isle of Man Post Office and the US Postal Service issued new Mayflower stamps. Image: iompost.com.