Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Waltheof, Abbot

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Saint Waltheof was brought up at the court of his step-father, King David of Scotland, and there formed a friendship with Saint Aelred. When the king took him out to the chase he would withdraw to some hidden spot, and spend his time in pious reading or prayer. At the first chance he stole away from court to the Augustinian priory of Saint Oswald’s in Yorkshire, where he hoped to lie hid and die. But such was not his lot. He was chosen prior of Kirkham, and was sent to Rome to appeal against the election of William, Archbishop of York. On his return, an interior call of grace, seconded by the advice of Saint Aelred, moved him to exchange to the Cistercian Order. Scarcely had he done so when a violent reaction set in, and it was only after bitter suspense that he felt assured of having followed God’s will. He became abbot of Melrose, and governed his monks with great charity. He had the gift of tears, his voice was sweet and soft, and a certain spiritual joy always shone on his pale face. Once he appeared before King Stephen in England with his bundle of clothes on his back. His brother, who stood by, said to the king, “See how my brother and thy kinsman does honour to his lineage.” But Stephen answered, “If thou and I had only the grace to see it, he is an ornament to our race.” Saint Waltheof died a.d. 1160. A stone in the ruins of Melrose marks his grave.

Saint Waltheof teaches us what he taught his monks — that we must never fear a cross because of its outward look, as we see not the interior unction by which it is made light, – Cruces vident, unctiones non indent.

God prepares souls for His graces by interior crosses. By them the affections are purged of all earthly dross, constancy is tried, and an occasion is afforded for the exercise of the most difficult and heroic virtues. — Saint John Climacus

Saint Waltheof’s trial in his novitiate is thus described. Observance of the rule became loathsome to him; while his former life, though less austere, seemed more guided by Christian prudence, and more fit for the saving of souls. The temptation increased the more he prayed against it, till at length one day he flung himself down in utter anguish, and asked only to do God’s will. An invisible hand raised him from the ground, his soul was filled with light, and from that moment he felt neither regret nor doubt. At the end of the year he received the white habit from his friend, Saint Aelred, who clothed him with the usual form: “The Lord put off thee the old man with his deeds.” Great indeed was the joy of his heart as the brethren answered, “Amen.”

It is I, fear ye not. – Mark 6:50

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Waltheof, Abbot”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 March 2015. Web. 21 February 2019. <>