St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby


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Commemorated on November 17

Hilda was the daughter of Edwin, King of Northumbria. She was baptized at a young age through the preaching of St. Paulinus, one of the first missionaries sent from Rome to the British Isles.

At the age of thirty-three, she renounced the world and entered monastic life. At first, she sought to enter a monastery near Paris, but she was called back to her homeland by St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, who, discerning her already-apparent spiritual gifts, assigned her as the Abbess of a small monastery. As her gifts of spiritual guidance became more widely-known, she led larger monasteries, finally establishing the Monastery of Whitby in 657. She spent the next thirty-three years directing the monastery, which became a beacon of Christian life throughout the British Isles and beyond. The monastery was unusual by modern standards in that it contained both a women’s and a men’s monastic house, with Mother Hilda as spiritual head of both. The community became a training-ground for priests and bishops who went on to spread the Gospel of Christ throughout Britain.

Commoners, kings and Bishop Aidan himself came regularly to Mother Hilda for spiritual counsel, and she was in her own lifetime regarded as the mother of her country. For the last six years of her life, she was afflicted with an unremitting burning fever, but continued her holy work undeterred until her repose in 680. At the moment of her death, St. Begu was awakened by a vision of Hilda’s soul being borne up to heaven by a company of angels.

By permission of Abba Moses (www.abbamoses.com)