August 3 Saints of the Day – Anthony the Roman and Waltheof of Melrose

On this day in 1913, the Wheatland Hop Riot, a major labor dispute, started in Wheatland, California. When the Waterland Yeast Riot broke out nearby, they all had a hefeweisen and went home.

Anthony the RomanAnthony the Roman (1067 – 1147) was born demonymously, raised Orthodoxically (in the early days of the East/West split), and orphaned at 17. He gave part of his considerable inheritance to the poor, tossed the other half into the sea in a barrel, and settled down to study the Greek fathers at a wilderness monastery for twenty years. When the “Latins” broke up the monastery for not submitting to the Pope of Rome, he went and lived eremitically on a rock on the seashore. After a year, a great storm came up and floated his rock to Novgorod. One source specifies that it sailed up the Neva and across Lake Ladoga, which means he sailed out through Gibraltar, around Spain, through the Dover Straits, and so on. I’m not sure anyone keeps records on this sort of thing, but this may win the much-coveted award for “longest journey on a floating rock.”

Once he learned the local lingo, he told the bishop about his journey and showed him his postcards. The bishop was amazed, and had a church built on the spot where Anthony landed (exactly three versts up the Volkhov from Novgorod). The next bishop priested and abbotified him. His keg o’ cash made the same trip, and some years later washed up nearby. Anthony had second thoughts about its jetsamification, and won it in court from its finder via the ingenious method of precisely describing the contents. “Must be yours,” the judge said. Anthony used the money to purchase land for the monastery, which he ruled wisely until he died, as do we all (less Elijah and Enoch). He is considered the father of Novgorodic monasticism.

Melrose AbbeyWaltheof of Melrose(1095 – 1159) was the son of Norman nobleman Simon I de Senlis, 1st Earl of Northampton and 2nd Earl of Huntingdon (jure uxoris) (which means “by means of [his] wife,” which means “he only became Earl because he married her”). Since Waltheof was secundo in a world where geniture was primo, he chose a religious profession (in both senses of both words), and became an Augustinian canon (not exactly a sinecure, but Augustinian canons rarely get fired). In 1140 he was nominated Archbishop of York, and had the backing of the Earl of York, but he was rejected by King Stephen of England, mostly on account of his close ties to King David I of Scotland, which tied him to Holy Roman Empress Matilda, who was Steve’s cousin, and with whom he (Stephen) was at war. (There’s a lot more of this, including David’s wife’s relationship to Empress Matilda, various claims to the English throne, one or two other women named Matilda, and a border war between England and Scotland. The Byzantines had nothing on the Normans in the “byzantine” department.)

After some political back-and-forthing, Waltheof gave up and became a Cistercian at Rievaulx in North Yorkshire, on the advice of his friend Aelred, who was only mostly red. He found the Cistercians rather harsh, and when he succeeded the somewhat despotic abbot at Melrose, he surprised and endeared himself to his monks by his gentle manner and humble ways. As one source put it, “He preferred to be damned for excessive mercy rather than for excessive justice.” More of a Pope Francis than a … well, I’d better not finish that sentence. He also had the habit of going to confession for the smallest of failings, as one of his confessors complained to his hagiographer. (“Here he comes again,” they would moan, “to confess throwing recyclables in the burn barrel.”)

Waltheof was a seer of visions, a worker of wonders, and a healer of the unhealthy. After he died, his successor ended up resigning when he couldn’t suppress the flow of pilgrims coming to visit the saint’s tomb. When Waltheof’s body was exhumed by his übersuccessor (if you will) and laid in a shiny new tomb, the monastery’s chronicler recorded, “There was great gladness.”

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

August 3 (Wikipedia)
Saint Anthony the Roman of Novgorod (Mystagogy) – Main source
Venerable Anthony the Roman and Abbot of Novgorod (OCA)
Image by Wikimedia Commons user shakko is used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license Use does not imply approval of owner of this page or this use. As you can well imagine.
Waltheof of Melrose (Wikipedia)
Waltheof of Melrose (St. Patrick DC)
Simon I de Senlis, Earl of Huntingdon-Northampton
Stephen, King of England
Saint Waltheof of Melrose (SQPN)
Image from Wikimedia (public domain)

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