I wonder what the above Christian name means to you. Well, for myself it was the name of my favourite uncle (long since departed to be with the Lord). It is also the name of Boris Johnson’s first born with his current wife, Carrie. Perhaps less well known is Wilfred of York of the Roman Catholic church who was born in Northumbria in the year 634 AD. Although he grew up within the comforting confines of the apostolic Celtic church, he was later to betray it to the Roman counterfeit apostasy at the infamous Synod of Whitby (664 AD). The story of his early life follows the usual sequence of unintended consequences so often found in those led astray by events. The first and most cathartic of these was the replacement of his natural mother, who sadly died when he was just twelve years old, by a stepmother who was cruel and unkind. So much so that he begged his father, an Anglo-Saxon nobleman, to let him leave home.
Thus, he was sent to the household of King Oswy of Northumbria, where he became a page or junior courtier. The Queen of Northumbria, name of Eanfled, liked the boy and seeing that he really wished to become a monk, sent him off to the monastic school on the island of Lindisfarne, founded by Saint Aidan. And it was during his time there that he became aware of the contentions between the Celtic and Roman churches over such topics as the tonsure and the date of Easter. Now these were relatively minor matters when compared with the basic Christian doctrines, but they were used to cause friction between those of opposing views – nothing changes. In the end, the views of the Queen, who had been educated at Roman influenced Canterbury; and who was the cousin of the king of Kent, Erconbert; aided by Wilfred, prevailed, over the more circumspect attitudes of King Oswy at the Synod of Whitby. And from that time the Celtic church came under more and more persecution from the continental oppressors and treated as backward looking people of no consequence, when compared with their avowed superiors.
The customs of the Celtic church were denigrated, instead of being upheld as having been derived from the earliest Christian churches to be found anywhere in the world, courtesy of Joseph of Arimathea and the later Christian saints. That which was false triumphed over the true generation of the Faith.
Going back to the beginning – what was it that led Wilfred to this eventual betrayal of his native church? Well, Wilfred was impatient as a young man to visit Rome, so that he could immerse himself in the Roman doctrines which so appealed to him. With a like-minded friend he set off to Lyons where they visited Delphinus, the Bishop of that city. Delphinus, also was much taken with Wilfred, both for his appearance and intelligence, that he even offered him the hand of one of his nieces in marriage. But Wilfred declined this offer as his heart was set on serving the church. He continued on his way to Rome learning all that was possible about the customs and ceremonies of the Roman church, till at last he was ready to be ordained. He went back to Lyons for this ceremony, for he wanted it to be performed by Bishop Delphinus, for whom he felt an affection almost as great as the love that the older man had for him. When he eventually returned to Northumbria, he found that the dissensions over the different customs had become even more bitter. And that King Oswy had called for a Synod to sort things out once and for all. Wilfred who had just been ordained priest was there and argued forcibly for Rome, since he had spent much time there, and said that it was foolish and wrong for the little Celtic church, alone in all the world to oppose the settled view of everyone else. His speech was pivotal in winning the day for Rome and as a result he was singled out to be the next Bishop of York. However, before he could take possession of the See, it was necessary for him to be consecrated.
Now Wilfred wanted the ceremony to be carried out with all the pomp and pageantry prevailing on the continent, instead of the simpler rituals used by the English bishops. He, therefore, travelled to France, where a friend of his, Agilbert, who had just been made Bishop of Paris, to have his consecration take place at Compiegne and it was a very splendid affair indeed. He was carried to and from the cathedral in a golden chair in a scene of every possible magnificence. So captivated was he by all this attention that he made no effort to return to his diocese in York and carry out his duties for two years, preferring instead the company of Agilbert and other highly placed churchmen. When he eventually did return, he found that another had been promoted in his place and he was demoted to be the Abbot of Ripon.
Despite arguing with both Pope and King, he nevertheless found favour again and was later installed as Bishop of the South Saxons at Chichester. It always seems that those who work for the powers of darkness will always find a way to resurface and continue their iniquity. After many years and when he was weak and frail, he set out once again for Rome, for he wished to die there, but only got as far as Oundle in Northamptonshire, where he ended his life in the year 709 AD. The Roman church considers Wilfred to be a saint, although they don’t say why.
The moral of this story is that spiritual vanity is a deadly and all-consuming failing of the highest magnitude. The world is full of those, who because they regard themselves as well-meaning, are completely blind to the extensive harm they are causing. The present delusion is, of course, that God needs help in saving His planet!! Even Kings have fallen for this one and are allying themselves with very devils in deconstructing all that is good and holy. How far will Our Lord allow this to continue? Not too much longer we hope.
“Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways. Re-clothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service finds, in deeper reverence, praise”. Amen