Sunday, November 3, 2013

St. Winifred, Shrewsbury, and Holywell

Today is the feast of St. Winifred, Welsh abbess and niece of St. Beuno, who raised her back to life after her beheading by Caradog of Hawarden. This site outlines her life and provides this Sarum Rite hymn:

A virgin flourishing as the rose,
The comely bride of Him Who is the Lamb,
As the precious martyr of Christ,
Hath Winifred richly blossomed.

Sprung from the stock of Britons,
Unshakable in faith, joyful in hope,
Holy in deeds, and pure of mind,
She was free of this world’s deceptions.

This virgin was slain by Caradoc,
And immediately the pit of Orcus hell swallowed him up.
For that is the place for the wicked,
And there with Satan he is burning.

In demonstrating proof of this happening,
A fountain welleth up at the bidding of God,
In the likeness of crimson reddening,
Where she was deprived of her head.

There many miracles are performed;
The blind see, and the dumb are given speech,
All manner of disease is put to flight,
When those who ask have faith.

O Winifred, our glorious lady,
Calm for us the billows of the sea,
Lest we become the ready prey of the enemy,
O compassionate one, afford us thy protection.

Holywell, St. Winifred's well in northern Wales, was a tremendous shrine of pilgrimage and cures in medieval England--the English Lourdes of its day. Henry VIII dissolved the Abbey at Shrewsbury in 1540 and had the saint's relics and shrine destroyed. Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ, a martyr who suffered after the Gunpowder Plot was discovered in 1605, had traveled to Holywell when suffering from throat cancer during his sixteen years of missionary work--and was cured. Holywell is still a place of pilgrimage and, indeed, the town touts itself as "The Lourdes of Wales".

Image credit: Wikipedia commons.

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