Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Guthlake, Hermit

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Guthlac of Croyland; artist unknown, 19th century; Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire, England; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Of royal birth, but of a wild and adventurous disposition, Guthlake at the age of fifteen joined a robber band, and became famous through the kingdom of Mercia for his daring deeds. One night, after nine years of this life, as he lay awake in the forest, new thoughts of death, the vanity of earth, and the joys of heaven stirred his heart; whereupon, waking his companions, he bade them choose another chief, as he had vowed himself to the service of Christ. Tearing himself from their entreaties and embraces, he exchanged his arms for the dress of a rude peasant, and humbly begged admittance into the abbey of Repton. There he did penance two years, when, moved by the example of the desert Saints, he withdrew to the marshes of Lincolnshire to lead a hermit’s life. In this solitude he suffered the most terrible assaults from the evil spirits. They cast him into foul swamps, reproached him incessantly with the sins ofhis youth, and once seemed to have brought him to the mouth of hell itself. But Guthlake was stronger in his weakness than in the most brilliant days of his youth. He prayed constantly, and when quite worn out drove the devils off by the name of Jesus, and made frequent acts of hope. He died, in 714, in the odour of sanctity, at the age of forty-seven, and the famous abbey of Croyland rose over his grave.

Every good thought is the whisper of grace in our hearts. Listen and instantly obey, lest you grieve and extinguish the Holy Spirit of God.

How indispensably necessary to me is Thy grace, O Lord, in order to begin, to continue, and to accomplish what is good! For without it, I can do nothing; but in Thee I can do everything by the strength of Thy grace. — Imitation of Christ

It was a dreary and fearful waste to which God called Guthlake, but it became a holy and refreshing sanctuary before he died. Morning and night an angel visited him, and whispered the secrets of heaven to him as he knelt in prayer. The lower creatures obeyed him. The birds and the fishes came at his call and ate out of his hand, while the swallows would perch on his head and knees, and let him help them to build their nests. To one who expressed surprise he said, “Know ye not that all created beings unite themselves with him who unites himself with God?”

If you be willing, and will hearken to Me, you shall eat the good things of the land. – Isaiah 1:19

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Guthlake, Hermit”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 March 2015. Web. 14 December 2017. <>