St Egwim of Worcester (England)

Bishop (entered heaven this day 717)

Dear Gwinn,

Sometimes, my dear niece, you have to know how to admit you were wrong.  It’s hard, I know.  It means swallowing your pride, giving credit to someone else, exposing your imperfections, but sometimes it’s simply the best thing to do.  If you think about it, most human conflicts – whether between family members, communities, or countries – can be traced back to someone’s wounded pride, someone not willing to admit that they were (partially, perhaps) wrong, or mistaken, or at fault.  I think you may be in a similar position.  If you could find it in yourself to tell the other members of the leadership team that maybe your decision wasn’t the best, maybe you would release the tension and your Chapter could get going again.  Today’s saint faced a similar situation.

He was of noble birth, descended from England’s Mercian kings, and early on heard a call to religious life, which he answered generously.  Eventually he was appointed bishop of the important, though corrupt, city of Worcester.  Filled with zeal for the eternal Kingdom, he swept into the diocese like a tornado, spreading reform in every direction.  It seems, however, that his zeal got the best of him, and he was accused of being too harsh with his priests.  We don’t know the details of his reform or of the accusations, but we do know his response.  In a show of public penance for any wrong his zeal may have incurred, and in order to avoid exacerbating counterproductive conflicts, he undertook a penitential pilgrimage to Rome (a common practice in the Middle Ages).

At the start of his pilgrimage, he explained his motivations, bound his feet with shackles, locked them, and threw the key into the river.  This single act of humility probably did more to reform his diocese than all his other measures combined.  In fact, the reform did take root, and he became a powerful force for positive change throughout England.  He later undertook another pilgrimage to Rome in the company of two English kings, and he founded one of the great medieval Benedictine monasteries, Evesham, in the aftermath of a Marian apparition there.  (By the way, you may be interested in finding out how he eventually got out of his shackles.  He wore them all the way to Rome, which was most certainly uncomfortable.  Once in the Eternal City, he bought a fish in the market, and upon cutting it open he found the key in its belly – a divine confirmation both of the value of the original gesture, and of its successful conclusion.)

We are human, and we tend to get embroiled in conflicts, even when we are sincerely seeking the right thing.  Before conflict erupts into division, it is often better to admit some fault, to humble oneself in order to open the way to a fresh start.  Didn’t our Lord say “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”?  He probably knew what he was talking about.

Your loving uncle, Eddy


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