Could St Aidan be a patron saint of the UK?
'... the time is surely ripe to identify a patron saint for the UK'
Aidan would have been ‘steeped in Irish monastic ways – genuine, close to people, soaked in scripture, [and] hospitable in his zeal to live and share the gospel’ says Ray Simpson, author of St Aidan’s Way of Mission (BRF).
Aidan, whose name means 'little flame', was sent out with 12 brothers to share the gospel with the pagan Anglo-Saxons at Northumbria.
Aidan’s approach was not only to share the gospel but to also live it. He wanted no barrier to come between him and sharing the news of Christ. So much so, says Simpson, that he refused the gift of a royal horse from King Oswald so that he could ‘walk alongside his missionary brothers and alongside the peasants who could not afford horses’, just as Jesus did.
Bradley notes that ‘Aidan established a close relationship with the kings whom he served [but] He was not afraid to speak truth to power and to chastise them when he felt they were not acting justly or mercifully.’
BRF author and contributor to Celtic Prayer: Caught up in Love Simon Reed comments that Bradley is right to suggest Aidan as a uniting saint. ‘Aidan's life speaks of knowing who you are whilst being open to others who are different. He's a uniting figure who affirms diversity. He's also one of the reasons why Celtic spirituality continues to inspire and inform Christians today.’
We need a patron saint for the UK who can symbolise shared values and act as a spiritual focus in our increasingly fractured nation.
David Cole, a guardian of the Community of Aidan and Hilda and popular BRF author, also supports the suggestion of Aidan and says, ‘Aidan's gentle manner and his strength of character; his desire to see justice and right living for and from the highest kings to the lowest slaves; his desire to hear others' beliefs whilst standing strong in his own all show the right character for a uniting Patron Saint’. Simpson affectionally comments that Aidan broke down and crossed over the barriers of race, religion and language, ultimately giving the rest of his life to ‘incarnate Christ among foreign peoples’'.
St Aidan’s feast day is August 31, which Bradley points out is ‘close enough to the late summer British bank holiday to allow it to become a day on which to remember this saintly figure’ who embodied gentleness, humility and compassion while sharing the good news of Christ.
Our book of the month for August is St Aidan's Way of Mission by Ray Simpson. Check it and our other Celtic spirituality titles out by following the links below.