August 25 Saints of the Day – Titus of the Seventy and Ebbe the Elder

On this day in 1609, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers, showing them that by Jove, there are moons.

Titus the ApostleTitus of the Seventy (I–II cent.) was a Cretan (although not a cretin) who dedicated himself to living a virtuous life (heck, he even remained a virgin, and you know how hard that was on Crete in those days). He was rewarded with a dream telling him to seek salvation, which he promptly ignored for over a year, when his uncle, the governor, hearing about a prophet in Palestine, sent him thither to check things out. Titus heard Jesus preach, heard the Apostles speaking Cretan in Acts 2, and was baptized by the Apostle Paul. He traveled with the great apostle up hither and down yon, and was eventually made bishop back on Crete.

While there he got a letter from Paul, which has been preserved in the collection of writings sometimes (okay, always) called the “New Testament.” Paul told Titus, member of an old and illustrious Cretan family, “all Cretans are liars.” We assume Titus took it with good grace. He bopped over to Rome long enough to watch Paul die, then came back to Crete and led his flock, preached to pagans, and worked wonders, including destroying temples and idols by his prayers. When he died at age 97, his face “shone like the sun.” He is the patron saint of (wait for it) Crete.

Æbbe the ElderÆbbe the Elder (ca. 615 – 683) was one of the daughters of Æthelfrith, first king of Northumbria, and Acha, last princess of Deira. She is the sister of Saint Oswald, and with her many siblings endured exile in Ireland while their uncle Edwin usurped. When Ozzie (as nobody called him) reestablished the family on the throne, she moved back to England. He wanted to marry her off to the Scottish prince Aidan (not to be confused with the Irish saint Aidan, who (a) wasn’t a prince, and (b) wasn’t looking to get married, and (c) hadn’t crossed the Irish Sea yet — it was just a popular name), but she refused, wishing instead to be nunnified. Aidan, not one to be put off easily, determined to carry her off by force (those were different times). She fled to a rock by the shore, and an unusually high tide cut her off from the mainland for three whole days, after which Aidan gave up and went home.

On a piece of land granted by Oswiu, her brother, she built Ebchester (Æbbe’s fort, walled city, army camp, etc.) Monastery, becoming its abbess. She was heavily involved in the region’s politics, attempting to make peace between various factions. In one incident, Bishop Wilfred helped Ætheldreda, first wife of Æbbe’s nephew, Ecgfrith, King of Northumbria, escape to Æbbe’s monastery before her nuptials were finalized (if you know what I mean). Ecgfrith’s second wife Iurmenburh stirred up his hatred for Wilfred even further (out of jealousy), and Wilfred was imprisoned. Æbbe, through her diplomacy, won his release.

Another time Æbbe was captured (by somebody), but escaped in a boat down the Humber and out to sea, where a “supernatural being” guided it to a spit (St. Abb’s Head) in Berwickshire, where she founded a double monastery before heading back to Ebchester (the timing here is very unclear and I suspect my sources would scratch each other’s eyes out if they were ever in the same room). Life at the monastery was not necessarily in strict accordance with Christian values of temperance, decorum, and chastity, and Æbbe fought to rein in the worst offenses, pretty much in vain. Things were so bad that when St. Cuthbert visited, he was forced to spend his evenings down by the sea swimming and praying to avoid succumbing to the “temptations of the flesh” (whatever exactly that might mean). A monk spied him one night and followed him, and saw two otters cavorting with him.

No doubt due to its lax morals, the monastery burned to the ground shortly after Æbbe’s death, although her work in establishing Christianity in southeast Scotland has never been forgotten (obviously).

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


August 25 (Wikipedia)
Apostle Titus of the Seventy and Bishop of Crete (OCA) – Main source
The Bible (There are many great Bible resources online; my favorite is Bible Gateway).
Saint Titus (SQPN)
Image of Titus from Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule)
Saint Ebbe the Elder (SQPN) – Main source
Æbbe of Coldingham
Image of Æbbe from Golden Age of Northumbria (Public domain according to this rule)

Hagiography, Lives of Saints, Miracles, Monasticism, Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Saints, Saints’ Lives, Christianity, Galileo, Venice, Telescopes, Jupiter, Moons, Titus, Seventy, Crete, Dreams, Palestine, Jesus, Apostles, Acts of the Apostles, Paul, Bishops, New Testament, Pagans, Pagan idols, Pagan temples, Evangelism, Patron saints, Æbbe the Elder, Ebbe, Æthelfrith, Northumbria, Oswald, England, Ireland, Scotland, Aidan, Forcible marriages, Divine rescues, Monasteries, Abbesses, Politics, Wilfred, Ætheldreda, River Humber Berwickshire, Cuthbert, Otters