Saint Paulinus of York, Bishop

Saint Paulinus of York, Bishop

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October 10

Today is the feast day of Saint Paulinus of York.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Paulinus was a Roman monk in St. Andrew’s monastery at Rome.  He was sent by St. Gregory the Great in 601, with St. Mellitus and others, to help St. Augustine and to carry the pallium to him. He laboured in Kent — with the possible exception of a mission to East Anglia before 616 — till 625.   Saint Paulinus accompanied Ethelburga (Aethelburh), the sister of King Eadbald of Kent, when she went to the Northumbrian Court to marry King Edwin, then a pagan.

Before leaving Kent, he was consecrated bishop by St. Justus, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was successful in converting Edwin and large numbers of his people, the king’s baptism taking place on 12 April, 627. With the assistance of King Edwin, he established his see at York and began to build a stone church there. His apostolic labours in instructing and baptizing the people of the north country were unceasing, and tradition perpetuates his ministry at Yeavering, Catterick Bridge, Dewsbury, Easingwold, Southwell, and elsewhere, while his own name is preserved in the village of Pallingsburn in Northumbria.

On the defeat of King Edwin in 633, Paulinus carried the queen and her children safely to Kent.  The heathen reaction under Penda made missionary work impossible in Northumbria.  Saint Paulinus devoted himself to the Diocese of Rochester, then vacant. It was after his flight that he received the pallium from Rome (634), sent to him as Archbishop of York. Though Anglican writers have disagreed among themselves as to whether he was justified in leaving his archbishopric, Catholic writers, following Venerable Bede, have held that he had no choice and was the best judge of what was advisable under the circumstances.

Venerable Bede describes him as tall and thin, with a slightly stooping figure; he had black hair and an aquiline nose and was of venerable and awe-inspiring aspect. He was buried in his church at Rochester, and, on the rebuilding of the cathedral, his relics were translated by Archbishop Lanfranc to a silver shrine where they lay till the Reformation. His festival is observed in England on 10 Oct., the anniversary of his death.

Saint Paulinus' missionary efforts are difficult to evaluate. Venerable Bede implies that the mission in Northumbria was successful, but there is little supporting evidence, and it is more likely that Saint Paulinus' missionary efforts there were relatively ineffectual. Although Osric, one of Edwin's successors, was converted to Christianity by Saint Paulinus, he returned to paganism after Edwin's death. Hilda, however, remained a Christian, and eventually went on to become abbess of the influential Whitby Abbey.[Northumbria's conversion to Christianity was mainly achieved by Irish missionaries brought into the region by Edwin's eventual successor, Oswald.

 

Image: Statue of Paulinus of York, Interior of Rochester Cathedral. photo by Polylerus (3)

Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff

  1. http://www.nobility.org/2013/10/10/paulinus/
  2. http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/bios/paulinus.html
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paulinusofyork.jpg

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