Saint Winifred, an early Welsh saint who is commemorated at Holywell in Flintshire, is the patron of this blog and I am delighted to share the little information I have about her here.
Saint Winifred, Pray for us.
Born at Holywell, North Wales, into a wealthy family in around 600, Winifred was a beautiful and devout young woman who made private vows to preserve her virginity and become a Bride of Christ. Winifred was martyred seeking refuge in a church after fleeing the advances of a chieftain, Caradoc of Hawarden who murdered her for spurning him.
Though a historical character there are nonetheless a number of legends surrounding Winifred. It is said that Winifred on deciding to become a nun so enraged Caradoc that he decapitated her with his sword. The resting place of her head after it rolled down a hill became the source of a healing spring. Her uncle, Saint Beuno, caused Caradoc to fall dead and then reunited Winifred with her head, miraculously restoring her to life. He went on to declare that whoever asked three times for help from God in her name, would ‘obtain the grace if it was for the good of his soul.’
Winifred was to become abbess at Gwytherin and after her death was venerated at Shrewsbury where her relics were kept before the destruction of her shrine by Henry VIII. Sometimes known as the Patron Saint of Virgins, Winifred’s name means holy, blessed reconciliation, joy and peace – all of which we need more in our hectic and troublesome lives.
I have been privileged enough to visit the shrine at Holywell a few years ago and to have had prayers said for me and my family by a number of friends who have also visited. I hope to go on pilgrimage there again next year with a more focused intention. Naturally her Welsh heritage is something I feel a great affinity with and so I hope that over time I will be able to learn from her example and connect ever more intimately with Christ through her gentle guidance and intercession.
On the eve of her feast day, 3rd November, I am honoured to offer my prayers to St Winifred and ask that she be patron of this small patch of the internet which is home to my thoughts.
A virgin flourishing as the rose,
The comely bride of Him Who is the Lamb,
As the precious martyr of Christ,
Hath Winifred richly blossomed.
Sprung from the stock of Britons,
Unshakable in faith, joyful in hope,
Holy in deeds, and pure of mind,
She was free of this world’s deceptions.
This virgin was slain by Caradoc,
And immediately the pit of Orcus hell swallowed him up.
For that is the place for the wicked,
And there with Satan he is burning.
In demonstrating proof of this happening,
A fountain welleth up at the bidding of God,
In the likeness of crimson reddening,
Where she was deprived of her head.
There many miracles are performed;
The blind see, and the dumb are given speech,
All manner of disease is put to flight,
When those who ask have faith.
O Winifred, our glorious lady,
Calm for us the billows of the sea,
Lest we become the ready prey of the enemy,
O compassionate one, afford us thy protection.
– from the Complete Old Sarum Rite Missal
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