Saint Dunstan of Canterbury
Jul 03, 2015 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast May 19
St. Dunstan, most famous of the Anglo-Saxon saints, was born near Glastonbury of a noble family closely connected to the ruling house.
While expecting him, his saintly mother was in church on Candlemas Day, when all the lights were extinguished. Suddenly, the candle she held spontaneously re-ignited, and all present rekindled their tapers from this miraculous flame. This was taken to foreshadow that the child she bore was to be a light to the Church in England.
In fact, from early on, Dunstan gave signs of religious and academic fervor, and demonstrated a remarkable artistic talent. He studied under the Irish monks of Glastonbury Abbey and later, under the guidance of his uncle St. Alphege, the Bishop of Winchester, became a monk himself and received Holy Orders from his hands. After ordination, he retired to a cell near an old church where he divided his time between prayer and the crafting of sacred vessels and illuminating manuscripts. He also played the harp.
In 943 Dunstan was appointed Abbot of Glastonbury. As soon as he took office, he set about reconstructing the monastic buildings, restoring the church and revamping communal life. Under his stewardship, Glastonbury became a center of learning and the standard for the revitalization and restoration of other monastic communities.
Dunstan became chief council to King Edred, and then his successor, King Edgar. He stood firmly for discipline and reform, especially in morals, among the laity and particularly among the clergy. He also worked for the unification of his country becoming the leader of a party. Later, learning of Benedictine perfection, he applied its maxims to his labors.
Under Kind Edgar he was first consecrated Bishop of Worcester, then Bishop of London, and subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury. Upon going to Rome, he was appointed legate of the Holy See by Pope John XII. Armed with this authority, the saint set himself to energetically reestablish ecclesiastical discipline under the powerful protection of the king.
He was Edgar’s counselor for sixteen years, and continued to direct the state during the short reign of Edward the Martyr. The political assassination of the young prince and the dubious accession of his half-brother Ethelred in 970 ended Archbishop Dunstan’s influence at court, and he foretold the calamities which were to mark the new king’s reign.
No longer directly involved in the affairs of state, the holy archbishop retired to Canterbury. On the feast of the Ascension in 988, although gravely ill, he preached three sermons to his people and announced his impending death. He died peacefully two days later.