St. Edward, King and Confessor
St. Edward III., grandson of the holy King and Martyr, Edward, was born in England, but educated in Normandy, by his maternal uncle, as the Danes had conquered and devastated England. In the midst of the sensuality of the world and the temptations to all possible frivolities, Edward, while still very young, endeavored to lead so retired and innocent a life, that he was admired by all, and was called the Angel of the court. He took no pleasure in those amusements in which young princes generally delight, but found his greatest joy in prayer and study. His devotion at Church during holy Mass was truly wonderful; and no time spent there seemed to him too long. He had the greatest horror for everything that was in the least contrary to angelical chastity. No immodest word ever passed his lips, and none was ever uttered in his presence without being severely censured by him. The long absence from his home and kingdom he bore with the most admirable patience, and when, one day, some courtiers said to him that he must regain his kingdom by force of arms, he said, that he did not desire a crown which must be won by shedding blood. But when the Danes had been driven from English soil, and peace restored throughout the land, the nobility recalled Edward from exile and placed him upon the throne.
The new King bestowed his first care on the restoration of the prosperity of the kingdom, and to this end, he endeavored to revive the worship of the true God and to reform the corrupted morals of his subjects. The revenues taken from the church were restored to it; churches were repaired or rebuilt, together with many monasteries for religious men and women, whose duty it would be to restore the old religion and the fear of God throughout the land; for he used to say: “The most efficacious means to secure the happiness of a country is religion and the fear of God: for the well-being of a state depends mostly on the prosperity of its Church.” The nobility demanded that Edward should marry, that the kingdom might not be left without an heir to the throne. Edward, who had already made a vow of perpetual chastity, but was unwilling to reveal it, consented to their wish, and married Edith, the daughter of Count Godwin, but lived in continency until his end. To his subjects he was a most perfect model of all Christian virtues, and cared for their well-being like a tender father. He manifested special love to the poor and the orphans, whence he received the glorious title of Guardian of the orphans and Father of the poor. He was a wise and just administrator, gave every one free access to him, and allowed no one to depart without relief.
His leisure hours were spent in prayer and works of charity. He was never better satisfied than when he had almost emptied the royal treasury into the hands of the poor. Once, during holy Mass, at which he daily assisted with great devotion, he had the happiness of seeing our Lord in a most beautiful form surrounded by heavenly brightness. On Pentecost-day, God revealed to him, during holy Mass, that the king of Denmark, who intented to invade England, and who was already on sea, had perished. One day, while on his way to Church, he met a poor paralytic man, who was creeping slowly to the sacred edifice. The holy king took him upon his shoulders, and carried him thus into the house of God. This admirable work of charity God rewarded by immediately bestowing health upon the poor paralytic.
Besides the Queen of Heaven, the holy king specially honored St. John, as it is known that the latter lived always in chastity. In honor of this Saint, the king had made a vow to refuse nothing which should be asked of him in the holy Apostle’s name. It happened that St. John himself appeared to him in the form of a beggar. The king, having no money about him, took a ring from his finger, and gave it to the beggar. Some days afterwards, St. John appeared to two pilgrims and gave them the ring, with the request that they would take it to the king and tell him that he would die in six months, and be led into heaven by the holy Apostle. The king received this message joyfully, ordered prayers throughout the kingdom for himself and redoubled his works of charity and devotion. On the day appointed to him, after a short illness, and having devoutly received the holy Sacraments, he gave his spotless soul into the hands of his Creator, in the 36th year of his age, in 1066. Thirty-six years after his death, his holy body was exhumed and was found entirely incorrupt, while it exhaled so delicious a fragrance, that all who were present greatly rejoiced.
I. St. Edward received the message of his death joyfully. This should not surprise any one: as the holy king had performed, during his life, a great many noble and kind deeds, which would accompany him before the Judgment-seat of the Most High. In consequence of these, he had reason to expect the reward promised by the Saviour. He could say with the Apostle: “There is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day.” (II. Tim. iv.) He hoped to obtain this crown after his death; hence he received the announcement of it with joy. Consider here, my dear reader, an important truth, taken from Holy Writ. God will judge and sentence every man according to his works. The works which have been done during life follow us, the good as well as the evil, to the judgment-seat of God. “For, their works follow them:” says Holy Writ (Apoc. xvi.) “That for which man commits sin,” says St. Augustine, “remains; man must leave it: but the sin he carries with him.” His sins shall bear witness against him, and say, as St. Bernard writes: “We are thy works; thou hast created us.” The same may be said of the good works which accompany the just to comfort him. “We are thy works: thou hast created us,” they will say.
“At the Judgment-seat of the Almighty,” writes St. Gaudentius, it will not be said: Behold the man and his nobility, his beauty, honor, riches, or power; but, as it is written: Behold the man and his works. If a man comes with many evil deeds to the Judgment-seat, he will have nothing to expect but a terrible sentence. If, however, he can show good works and many virtues, he will be called to receive the recompense which Christ has promised for such works and such virtues. “Every man will receive according to his works.” (Rom. ii.) “If you wish to die happily and be able to justify yourself before the Judgment-seat of the Almighty, perform now, while time is left to you, good works, and practise virtue. The dying receive great comfort and hope from their contempt of the world, their eager desire to improve in virtue, from the practice of penance, voluntary obedience, mortification, crosses and trials borne patiently for the love of Christ.” Thus writes the pious Thomas a Kempis; and he adds the following exhortation: “Endeavor so to live, that you may rejoice and not fear when your last hour comes.”
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.