Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Oswald, Martyr

Saint Oswald of NorthumbriaArticle

On the dethronement of his father, the pagan king of Northumbria, Oswald took refuge in Scotland, and was brought up a Christian by the monks of Iona. After some years he collected an army to recover his paternal throne. On the eve of battle, Oswald set up on the field a great wooden cross, before which he and his army knelt in prayer. That night Saint Columba in a vision assured him of the victory which on the morrow regained for him his throne. The conversion of his subjects was now his one desire; he brought Saint Aidan from Iona, went with him from village to village, and acted as his interpreter and catechist. The two Saints laboured and prayed together with such earnestness and faith, that Northumbria soon became a Christian land. Oswald loved much to sing Office with the monks in choir, and after Lauds would remain through the night in prayer. At the same time he attended most carefully to the needs of his subjects, and by his charity won their hearts. On Easter-day, when sitting down to a banquet, he was told that a crowd of destitute people were begging at the gate. He at once sent out a silver dish full of meat, and ordered the dish itself to be divided among them, whereat Saint Aidan, who was at table, seizing the king’s right hand, exclaimed, “May this hand never perish!” The prayer was prophetic: when a few years later Oswald fell in battle, his right hand and arm remained incorrupt.

By prayer Saint Oswald recovered his kingdom, converted his subjects, and attained to sanctity. How much might we each effect through humble persevering prayer!

This is my only hope and consolation — to flee unto Thee in every tribulation, to trust in Thee, to call upon Thee lovingly, and to wait patiently for Thy consolation. — The Imitation of Christ

After Oswald had reigned most prosperously for eight years, his kingdom was invaded by Penda, the barbarous king of Mercia. The inferior army of the Saint could make no head against the pagan host. When at length Oswald saw his force entirely surrounded, and flight impossible, he entreated Heaven for the souls of his soldiers. As one by one they fell, their sovereign’s prayer went before them to the judgment-seat. At last the Saint himself was slain, and his dying prayer, “O God, be merciful to their souls,” passed into a proverb in the North.

And will not God revenge His elect, who cry to Him day and night? – Luke 18:7

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Oswald, Martyr”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 8 March 2015. Web. 18 November 2019. <>