Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Oswald, King

Saint Oswald of NorthumbriaArticle

Saint Oswald, King of England, was the son of heathen parents, and was partially educated by them. After his father Ethelfrid had lost a battle against Redwald and been slain, Oswald had to flee from England with his two brothers and several other noblemen, and seek safety in Scotland. Here he found not only what he had sought, but becoming acquainted with some Christians, he also acquired a knowledge of the Catholic faith, and after being carefully instructed in its doctrines, he, with his two brothers, received baptism. After the death of Edwin, the English conferred the crown first upon his brother and later upon him. His first care was to establish the Christian religion in his domains, and banish the tyrant Cadwalla, a bitter enemy to the Christians, who cruelly persecuted them. The tyrant had at his disposal an immense army, which he called “The Invincible.” Oswald placed his trust in God, and marched with his soldiers against the far superior numbers of the enemy. He had the cross carried at the head of his army, to show that he placed his trust in Him who died upon the cross for us. The battle was fought, and ended in a complete victory over Cadwalla, who was slain. Oswald, returning in triumph, gave due thanks to the Almighty, and endeavored to convert all his subjects to the Christian faith. To accomplish this, he besought the Scots to send him a bishop and some pious priests, that they might instruct the people in the word of God, and administer the affairs of the church. The Scotch sent him Aidan, a truly holy prelate, with some other pious priests. They preached the Gospel with such fervor and zeal, and God confirmed their teachings by so many miracles, that in a short time the number of those converted became so great, that the king had to call for more priests, for whom he built churches and convents at different places, endowing them most generously. He was exceedingly happy to contemplate the growth of the Christian religion, and made it his greatest care to disseminate it still more. Penda, king of Mercia, a pagan and a bitter enemy of the Christians, enraged at Oswald’s pious efforts, invaded his dominions with his wild hordes. The holy king went to meet him as he had gone to meet Cadwalla, but with a very different result. God, always just, though often incomprehensible to the feeble understanding of human minds, decreed that Oswald’s army should be vanquished, and he himself should lose his life. Thus ended the days of the holy king, who had always endeavored to labor for the honor of God and His holy religion; and he received, in exchange for his temporal crown, the glorious crown of martyrdom, as he lost his life in the defense of the true faith, in the year of Our Lord, 642. Besides his untiring zeal in planting and spreading the knowledge of the holy Gospel, every one admired in this holy king the more than fatherly love and generosity he ever displayed towards the poor. A great many of them received their daily food at his palace, and he allowed none to leave him without alms. He had a special servant appointed to attend to the poor. One Easter Sunday, when bishop Aidan was at the table with Oswald, this servant came and said that several poor people were in the court yard begging alms. The pious king, without hesitation, took a silver dish filled with meat, and handing it to the servant, told him to give not only the meat, but the dish also to the poor. The holy bishop, deeply touched by this noble deed, taking the generous hand of the king, said: “May this hand never corrupt.” This wish was granted by the Almighty. After Penda had slain the king, he had his head and right hand cut off and fastened on a picket. A year later, when Oswald’s successor to the crown, took them off, they were entirely incorrupt. The head and body were buried in the church at Lindisfarne, but the right hand was brought to the capital, Bamborough, and, with great ceremony, deposited in Saint Peters church, where God wrought many miracles, by means of it, on the sick and infirm.

Practical Considerations

• The pious couple chose the Blessed Mother as heiress to all their possessions, and hence built a magnificent temple, according to divine instructions, tc her honor. Saint Oswald gave the greater part of his treasures for the defense and dissemination of the true faith, and for the comfort of the poor. Oh how great was their consolation for this in their last hour, and how much glory did they gain in Heaven! How much greater the fame they attained even in this world, than it they had used their wealth to procure costly garments, or other worldly luxuries, or in building splendid palaces, or if they had left it to friends or devoted it to vain and worldly purposes. If God has blessed you with more temporal goods than others, be not of those whose only concern is to leave a large fortune to their children or relations, to whom it will perhaps be the means of offending God and drawing upon themselves eternal punishment, or who will soon forget their parents or benefactors and cease to pray for them. Do not forget the churches, the hospitals, the poor. This will give you comfort in your dying hour, and you will be better able to justify yourself before the judgment-seat of the most High, when you are called to give an account of your stewardship.

Consider well the words of Theophilactus: “We are not really lha masters of our temporal goods, and we possess nothing that is truly ours. We are only the stewards of the means which God has entrusted to us, that we may distribute them according to His orders.” Have you hitherto used or distributed the goods given to you according to the will of the Almighty? What will your conduct be in future? Saint Augustine gives you a short but beautiful exhortation: “Have you no riches?” says he: “do not seek them in this world by evil deeds; but if you possess them, take heed that you store them up for heaven by good deeds.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Oswald, King”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 March 2018. Web. 19 November 2018. <>