Aidan was a seventh-century Irish monk. He lived at the monastery of Iona, which St. Columba had founded. St. Oswald asked missionaries to preach to his pagan people. The first missionary to go soon came back complaining that the English were rude, stubborn and wild. “It seems to me,” St. Aidan said, “that you have been too harsh with those people.” He then explained that, as St. Paul says, first easy teachings are given. Then when the people have grown stronger on the Word of God, they can start to do the perfect things of God’s holy law. The monks turned to Aidan. “You should be the one to go to North England to preach the Gospel,” they said. Aidan went willingly.
Aidan arrived with 12 other monks and chose to settle on the island called Lindisfarne. After learning the English language, they went out, using Aidan’s only method as a missionary, which was to walk the lanes, talk to all the people he meet and interest them in the faith if he could. One story tells that King Oswald worried that bishop Aidan would walk like a peasant, gave him a horse but Aidan gave it away to a beggar. He wanted to walk, to be on the same level as the people he met.
The monastery he founded grew and helped found churches and other monasteries throughout the area. It also became a center of learning and a storehouse of scholarly knowledge. Aidan remained as Abbot and Bishop at Lindisfarne for 16 years. The impact of Aidan’s ministry echoed throughout northern England, as his monks continued his work after his death in 651 A.D.
Aidan is often remembered as the “true Apostle to the English people”. Our parish remembers him every year at his feast on August 31st, with a prayer he is said to written: