In our Gospel reading for the feast of Wulfstan of Worcester today, Jesus says that he is the vine and his disciples are the branches. One might say that Wulfstan was a branch that was pretty difficult to prune back.
Although we are not entirely sure of the date of his birth, some sources state he was born around 1008 and named after his maternal uncle, who served as Bishop of Worcester, and later, Bishop of York. Piety seemed to run in the family. In addition to having a bishop for an uncle, his parents embraced the monastic profession later in life. Shortly thereafter, Wulfstan entered the household of Bishop Brihteah, and, soon after that, entered the Worcester monastery, later becoming its prior. He likely would have been perfectly happy in that role for life but was persuaded in becoming Bishop of Worcester in 1062.
Wulfstan was known for his longevity and durability, particularly as it related to tough political times. He was an Anglo-Saxon, yet was able to remain bishop after the Norman Conquest in 1066–the only Anglo-Saxon bishop to remain in place under William the Conqueror. Contemporary accounts were that he essentially radiated holiness, and he insisted on visiting every single parish in his cure–the first English bishop to do so. (Next time you are preparing for the Bishop’s Visitation, remember Wulfstan was the one who started all that!)
His heart was clearly aligned with the poor. After the Norman Conquest, he turned his attention to the plight of the Anglo-Saxons who had been taken as slaves in Bristol. It was his fervent preaching that persuaded the folks in Bristol to abolish slavery.
Even though he lived to a ripe old age, he never stopped serving God. He died while performing his daily ritual of washing the feet of twelve poor people.
I can’t help but think about Wulfstan’s durability in the undoubtedly charged political times in which he lived. He didn’t let the politics of the realm affect him as a member of the family of God, and his ability to daily practice random acts of piety and holiness even after he essentially lived in an occupied land is admirable. So many times, discouragement over our present political climate can erode our own sense of holiness, and Wulfstan gives us all reason to take heart.
How might each of us begin to connect with God in such a way that it becomes impervious to the political stressors around us?
Image: Wulfstan of Worcester
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.