Monday, March 2, 2009

Chad of Mercia (635-651)

Most of our information about the life of Chad of Mercia comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede. He obtained his information from the monks of Lastingham where both Chad and his brother Cedd were abbots. Bede attributes the general pattern of Chad's ministry to the example Aidan and his own brother. Both were student's of St. Aidan.

Chad worked tirelessly with his brother Cedd. Together they established the monastery of Laestingaeu, now Lastingham in Yorkshire. Upon the death of his brother Cedd in 664, Chad succeeded him as abbot.

One Wilfrid was chosen to become bishop of Lindisfarne. He travelled to Gaul for consecration and remained so absent such a long time that King Oswiu (ruler of Northumbria) demanded a bishop be chosen in Wilfreds stead. Having learned of the missionary exploits and great humility of Chad, the King called for his election as Bishop of York.

Chad was hesitant to accept, but ultimately yeilded. As bishop of York he was greatly loved by his flock. He traveled great distances to care for his "little sheep." When Wilfrid returned to York Chad now bishop he made no objection and retired to a monastery.

In the year 668, Theodore of Tarsus became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was sent by the Pope to bring the Celtic church in line with Rome. While travelling to York he discovered that Wilfrid was not the bishop of York. He questioned Chad's placement by Oswiu.

Theodore decided that Chad must give up the Bishopric to Wilfrid. Chad in astounding humility responded, "If you decide that I have not rightly received the episcopal character, I willingly lay down the office; for I have never thought myself worthy of it, but under obedience, I, though unworthy, consented to undertake it." Seeing in him a man of such humble and godly character, Theodore pleaded with Chad to continue in his ministry.

Chad carried out his missionary and pastoral work with zeal. The kingdom of Mercia was huge. In accordance with what he learned from Adian, Chad choose to travel on foot . Theodore insisted that Chad use a horse for long journeys. Chad, unwilling to do anything he felt would put him above the common man, refused, but Theodore, Bede tells us, "lifted Chad bodily onto the horse himself."

After two and a half years at Lichfield a plague broke out which ‘freed many members of the reverend bishop’s church from the burden of the flesh’.

A certain monk named Owini was working alone in the fields near Chad’s house when he heard the sound of singing apparently descending from the sky to the oratory where Chad was praying. Owini listened with rapt attention. The voices could be heard for about half an hour before returning heavenwards. Chad then summoned his monks and, after urging them to live good Christian lives and to continue in keeping the rules of monastic discipline, announced that he was soon to die.

When the other brothers had gone away, Owini returned to Chad and begged to know what the singing had been that he had heard. Chad replied that he had been visited by angelic spirits summoning him to heaven and that these spirits would return in seven days and take him with them. He then commanded Owini to tell nobody of this until after his death.

Chad quickly took ill and on the seventh day. Bede goes on to tell us that he was called "saint" immediately after his death and that miracles and cures of all ailments followed his death.

primary source Bede's history

graphic: St Chad (fresco at Shrewsbury school chapel) by Aidan Hart

1 comment:

David said...

I found you this morning as I am doing research on St Chad. i live in Staffordshire UK and am hoping to revive an old pilgrimage route to Lichfield associated with St Chad. My wife Pam & I are companions of the Northumbria Community and also have great friends in the Lyon family in Kingston. We also know Next church and Jared Siebert - i know he's left now. If you'd like info on the St Chad's Way project, email me at
Shalom on the Way,
David Pott