Birds chirping. Waves crashing against the sea. These are the sounds that Cuthbert was yearning for. His greatest wish was to live out his days as a hermit, worshiping God, and living the simple life. This was not be, and God had bigger plans for Saint Cuthbert.
Though the true origins of Cuthbert’s ancestry are debated to this day, we know a few things about his childhood. Namely that he grew up neat Melrose Abbey in Scotland, and that he knew from a young age - due to a vision that one of his friends had - that he was called to be a priest.
We do not know much about his parents and two separate beliefs are thrown about. The first is that he grew up to middle class English parents, and the second is that he was the son of an Irish king who had to flee to Scotland.
It is impossible to know which is the truth, but as it is often said that every Irishman seems to be descended from a king if you ask them, I choose to believe the second.
Now during this time in Ireland, England, and Scotland there was a small division in the church between the Roman and the Celtic rites. This can be confusing for modern day Catholics, but they both submitted to the primacy of the Pope, therefore they were both Catholic with only slight differences. This would be slightly different from today where Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics are closely related and generally believe the same things, but do not share the view on the primacy of the Pope.
These differences led to fierce rivalries though, and were something that the Vatican wanted to try and mitigate. This is where our friend Cuthbert comes in. He grew up in the Celtic rite with the customs of the Scottish and the Irish, but chose the Roman rite after the Synod of Whitby proclaimed that the Roman rite was the must accurate rite in the Church. This put him in a good position to be able to minister to both rites, and help ease the transition to the Roman rite from the Celtic rite.
When you factor in the disposition of Cuthbert, which was kind, patient, and understanding, he was the clear choice as a leader for the local church. His first post was to be in charge of the transition of the Priory of Lindisfarne from Celtic to Roman rite. He completed this job admirably and asked if he could live out the rest of his life in solitude and prayer as a hermit. He was granted this honor and lived on a nearby island for a few years.
This phase in Saint Cuthbert’s life is not too different from where we are at now. He was able to use the solitude and created schedules for himself that helped him grow in holiness. We need to do the same thing during this time of isolation. We are blessed to be able to view masses and talks through the internet, and I encourage you to add that into your daily schedule. I am pretty confident that St. Cuthbert would have included them if they existed!
My current daily prayer schedule is this:
6:30am - I walk my dog while praying the rosary
7:00am - Watch a live-streamed mass with my wife (cannot always make it! You would understand if you have ever tried to train a Siberian Husky)
7:30am - Read my readings and do my extra prayers such as Pray More Novenas
7:40am - My wife and I watch the Matthew Kelly Best Lent Ever video and discuss it.
What is your daily schedule? What have been your favorite videos or prayers during this time?
Now, back to St Cuthbert. He spent only a few years on this Island until he was asked to have a more active role in the Church. This shows that all things come to an end, and what we want is not always what is in God’s plan. Saint Cuthbert was consecrated a Bishop and spent his last two years of his life at Lindisfarne preaching and teaching.
Saint Cuthbert was always open to God’s will and was obedient to the Church, even when this was against his wishes. He is a model of what living a life in tune with God looks like. Though most of us will not be called to be a Bishop or help with the transition from two separate rites within the Church, we are all called to daily sacrifice. Offer up your daily sacrifices for those who are less fortunate than you and I during this time.
I will be offering up the little daily grievances and frustrations for all of those who are sick with the current Virus. Help them to turn to God and know he has a plan for all of us. Even if it is not what we wish.
P.S. The picture above is of the Lindisfarne Gospels which are some of the best examples of the art to come out of the Celtic Rite.