Today in the ancient Roman calendar was the feast of Mars, for which I wrote an ode or hymn back in 2006.
It’s also the feast day of two different Celtic saints, Bilfrith and Baldred. Bilfred was an artisan attached to Lindisfarne, and it was he who made the (now-lost) leather cover-encrusted-with-jewels of the Lindisfarne Gospels. (I’ve been to Lindisfarne, and the notion that there was a craftsman living there worthy of sainthood surprises me not at all).
Baldred appears to have been a Scottish saint from the neighborhood of Lothian, who was an abbot and anchorite on Bass Rock. (a rather imposing place). He was apparently a bit of a wonderworker, for he moved a dangerous reef out of the way of shipping (presumably in the Firth of Forth, since his hermitage was near Dunblane?). The well that was sacred to him near Whitekirk was renowned for increasing fertility.
Saints Bilfrith and Baldred, artisans both,
though one worked in leather and one in deeds:
on isolate islands you both drew breath,
yet worked to meet a community’s needs.
Bilfrith made a cloak for Christ’s written word
so good news could set the prisoners free.
Sailors cursed a reef, but Saint Baldred heard,
and moved it, opening the way to sea.
Miracles of making, and of motion,
bring to life both the artist and the art.
The best such acts glow with love’s devotion,
accomplished not just with hand, but with heart.
Bilfrith and Baldred, hear this prayer, and find
some ways to make my talents aid mankind.
I was thinking of the Bodhisattva oath earlier today in a different context, where a person promises to keep coming back through incarnation after incarnation to help the rest of humanity and all other beings ascend to enlightenment. Then, encountering these two saints in Toulson, I was struck by how one is apparently quite the thaumaturge, while the other is only a simple leatherworker, and yet they’re both saints. Anyone can be holy, and maybe that’s the important lesson of these two saints.
I, of course, am aware mostly of how I missed the boat for all of February in writing these sonnets that I planned to write all year. What is the Chinese proverb (not Celtic at all, oh no)? Fall down 7, get up 8.