Posted by: anna | February 4, 2010

St Wendreda of March

Today (22 January) we commemorate St Wendreda of March.

Miss Dunbar provides only: ‘St. Wendreda, or WENDRETH, V. probably not later than llth century. Patron of the town of March in Cambridgeshire. She was perhaps the founder and abbess of the church that bears her name at March, and of a nunnery that is believed to have adjoined it. Her relics and those of ST. PANDIONA are at Eltisley, Cambs. ‘ seems to have other sources, which make Wendreda another of the daughters of King Anna: ‘St. Wendreda was the daughter of seventh-century King Anna, one of the earliest Christian kings. At a time when Christianity was putting down roots among the Anglo-Saxon peoples of England, St. Wendreda and her sisters, Etheldreda and Sexburga, were enthusiastic missionaries spreading the Gospel of Christ.

‘Shunning the life of a princess, Wendreda dedicated herself to healing. She eventually settled in a small settlement called Mercheford, where some humble fisherman resided. Her sister, Etheldreda, went on to found the monastery at Ely, while her other sibling, Sexburga, became abbess of a monastery in Minster.

‘Later, Wendreda founded a community at March, Cambridgeshire, dedicated to healing. She passed peacefully into the heavenly kingdom, and her relics, enshrined in gold, were buried in the Ely Cathedral.

‘However, in 1016, the relics were carried off in battle in the hopes they would bring victory. At the Battle of Ashingdon, the conquering Danish king, a pagan, seized the relics, but soon was converted to Christianity. He took the relics to Canterbury Cathedral where they rested for the next 300 years.

‘In 1343, St. Wendreda was returned to March and enshrined in the church dedicated to her memory. St. Wendreda’s Church stands to this day, and is world famous for its magnificent double-hammer beam roof along with 120 carved angels.’

I wasn’t expecting much from a local female saint’s life. Ho hum, 22 January, another Saxon name. Another one with few details left, foundress of abbey, etc etc. And o I of little faith, just look: here is an outline of an imaginable life in a real place, a woman who (as quietly as a Saxon princess could) went about the practicalities of the business of heaven. St Wendreda’s church in March – the roof is AMAZING. How many times have I been through March in the train and never knew?

This is why it’s important to stick to routine and just do it. It is not a question of feeling like it. But unpreparedness is not good. It is a serious thing to open up these little windows on the cloud of witnesses – they are much bigger on the inside. Who knows what treasures and splendours may pour out?
Holy St Wendreda, pray to God for us.

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