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February 18 Saints of the Day – Leo the Great and Colmán of Lindisfarne

On this day in 1995, Barb Thomas Whitehead won the Cup o’ Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Golf Open. As most of you will know, Hawaiian Cup o’ Noodles differs from the regular kind in having Spam and pineapple.

Leo the GreatThe Orthodox and eastern rites today laud Leo I the Great (391 or 400 – 461), Pope of Rome. Born in Tuscany (or Rome), Leo gained fame as a helper and diplomat while still a deacon, so when Pope Sixtus III (not to be confused with the sixty-third pope, who was Pelagius II) died, he was unanimously elected to replace him. He ruled the See of Peter during a time when the barbarians of the north (Vandals, Goths, you know the sort) were all Arians, and were most all keen on sacking Rome for reasons of their own. He was notable for having solidified (with a little help from the emperor) the power of the Papacy over the bishops of Gaul (and other places), who had up to that point a level of autonomy they were (perhaps understandably) unwilling to give up. When he tried to assert hegemony over the Copts, they demurred (if not demurely).

His great Tome (imaginatively called “The Tome of Leo”) was (to be honest, somewhat gushingly) approved by the Council of Chalcedon, which accepted his definition, ruling that the human and divine natures of Christ exist “in one person without confusion or division.” In addition to the Tome he left 173 letters and 96 sermons, and we will finish with a quote from his somewhat Chrysostomic Christmas sermon Nativitate Domini: “There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life.”

Colmán of LindisfarneWestern rite Catholics today laud Colmán of Lindisfarne (ca. 605 – 675), bishop of, well, Lindisfarne, and inventor of the camp stove. A disciple of the great Columba, he followed Finan (whom we’ve met) as the abbot of Iona, as bishop of Lindisfarne, and as champion of the “Celtic” method of calculating the date of Easter.

Oswy, king of Bernicia, was raised in the Irish tradition and used the older dating method, whereas his wife had been baptized by Anglo-Saxons and used the “Roman” method. Thus while one of them was celebrating Easter, the other one was still in Lent. Apparently this didn’t bother anybody (enough to say anything) while Aidan was still bishop, but once he died all heck broke loose. The whole thing was so bothersome to Oswy (also spelled Oswiu, and probably some other ways) that he called the Council of Whitby in 664.

There Colmán argued vehemently for the Celtic method, citing Aidan and Columba and even John the Beloved Apostle. His (primarily Saxon) opponents did not deny the lineage of the method, but rather pressed the primacy of Peter, and the Pope’s right to fiddle with the dating if he so chose. They also argued that while John was certainly doing the best he knew, the Pope’s fiddling resulted in a superior method. The council ruled in favor of the Saxons, whereupon Colmán gathered up his skirts and his loyal monks (and half of St. Aidan) and fell back to Iona. From there he went to the wonderfully-named Innishboffin, and when bickering broke out between English and Celtic monks there, he founded a monastery in Ireland called “Mayo of the Saxons.”

Alcuin praised the monks for accepting voluntary exile, and for sticking it out among the “very barbarous” Irish (who had been Christian hundreds of years before the Saxons, but hey). Bede, who holds little truck (and absolutely no passenger vehicles) for the Celts, praised Colmán’s administration of Lindisfarne, citing his frugality and dedication to ministry and missionary work.

This Day in History for 18th February
Pope Leo I (Wikipedia) – Main source
Omer Englebert, Lives of the Saints (book on paper)
List of popes (Wikipedia)
Colman of Lindisfarne (St. Patrick Church, D.C.) – Main source
Saint Colman of Lindisfarne (SQPN)
Colmán of Lindisfarne (Wikipedia)
Bishop of Lindisfarne (Wikipedia)
Oswiu of Northumbria (Wikipedia)
Synod of Whitby (Wikipedia)
The Monastic Settlement of ‘Mayo of the Saxons.’ (Mayo Abbey Parish Magazine)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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