Read: Isaiah 55:6-12, Psalm 85:8-13, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, and Matthew 19:27-30
Very little is known of Aidan’s childhood. He was from Ireland, possibly Connacht, but we don’t know when he was born. He became a monk at the monastery on the Island of Iona in what is now Scotland. It was there he met Oswald, the exiled king of Northumbria (modern-day northeast England and southeastern Scotland). In 634, Oswald managed to regain his throne, and decided to use the opportunity to bring Christianity to his mostly pagan subjects.
He asked the Iona community to send missionaries. The first bishop was Cormán, but he met with no success and soon returned to Iona, reporting that the Northumbrians were too stubborn to be converted. Aidan criticized Cormán's methods and was sent as a replacement in 635.
Because Aidan and his monks didn’t speak English at first, the king often had to translate for them. They placed their base of operations on the island of Lindisfarne, because it was so similar to Iona and it was close to the royal fortress of Bamburgh. After Oswald died in 642, Aidan began to work closely with King Oswine of Deira and the two became close friends.
Aidan would walk from one village to another, politely conversing with the people he saw and slowly interesting them in Christianity. According to legend, the king gave Aidan a horse so that he wouldn't have to walk, but Aidan gave the horse to the first beggar he met. By patiently talking to the people on their own level Aidan and his monks slowly brought Christianity to the Northumbrian communities. Aidan also took in twelve English boys to train at the monastery, to ensure that the area’s future religious leadership would be English.
King Oswine was murdered in 651. Aidan died twelve days later, on August 31, in the 17th year of his episcopate. He had become ill while at the Bamburgh castle and died leaning against the buttress of a church on a royal estate near Bamburgh. A boy on a hillside nearby was out tending sheep and had a vision of angels carrying Aidan to heaven at the time that he died. The boy, Cuthbert, went to the monastery and became a monk, later reaching sainthood himself.
Aidan worked hard to bring the people of Northumbria to Jesus. He didn’t try to force them, but to show them that walking with Jesus was better than the alternatives. How can we use Aidan’s example today? What about his life speaks to you? Will you work as hard as Aidan did wherever you may find yourself? Take a few moments to pray about this. You may find the following prayer helpful:
O loving God, who called your servant Aidan from the peace of a cloister to re-establish the Christian mission in northern England, and gave him the gifts of gentleness, simplicity, and strength: Grant that we, following his example, may use what you have given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.