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ST. OSWALD BISHOP OF WORCESTER AND ARCHBISHOP OF YORK.
From his life written by Eadmer; also from Florence of Worcester, William of Malmesbury, and, above all, the elegant and accurate author of the history of Ramsey, published by the learned Mr. Gale, p. 385. The life of this saint, written by Folcard, abbot of Thorney, in 1068, Wharton thinks not extant. Mabillon doubts whether it is not that which we have in Capgrave and Surius. See also Portiforium S. Oswaldi Archicp. Eborac. Codex MS. crassus in 8vo. exarates circa anaum 1064, In Bennet College, Cambridge, mentioned by Waneley, Catal. p. 110.
A. D. 992.
ST. OSWALD was nephew to St. Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, and to Oskitell, bishop first of Dorcester, afterwards of York. He was educated by St. Odo, and made dean of Winchester; but passing into France, took the monastic habit at Fleury. Being recalled to serve the church, he succeeded St. Dunstan in the see of Worcester about the year 959. He shone as a bright star in this dignity, and established a monastery of monks at Westberry, a village in his diocese. He was employed by duke Aylwin in superintending his foundation of the great monastery of Ramsey, in an island formed by marshes and the river Onse in Huntingdonshire, in 972. St. Oswald was made archbishop of York in 974, and he dedicated the church of Ramsey under the names of the Blessed Virgin, St. Benedict, and all holy virgins. Nothing of this rich mitred abbey remains standing except an old gate-house, and a neglected statue of the founder, Aylwin, with keys and a ragged staff in his hand to denote his office; for he was cousin to the glorious king Edgar, the valiant general of his armies, and the chief judge and magistrate of the kingdom, with the title of alderman of England, and half king, as the historian of Ramsey usually styles him.* St. Oswald was almost always occupied in visiting his diocese, preaching without intermission, and reforming abuses. He was a great encourager of learning and learned men. St. Dunstan obliged him to retain the see of Worcester with that of York. Whatever intermission his function allowed him he spent it at St. Mary’s, a church and monastery of Benedictins, which he had built at Worcester, where he joined with the monks in their monastic exercises. This church from that time became the cathedral. The saint, to nourish in his heart the sentiments of humility and charity had everywhere twelve poor persons at his table, whom he served, and also washed and kissed their feet. After having sat thirty-three years he fell sick at St. Mary’s in Worcester, and having received the extreme unction and viaticum, continued in prayer, repeating often, “Glory be to the Father,” &c., with which words he expired amidst his monks, on the 29th of February, 992. His body was taken up ten years after and enshrined, by Adulph his successor, and was illustrated by miracles. It was afterwards translated to York, on the 15th of October, which day was appointed his principal festival.
St. Oswald made quick progress in the path of perfect virtue, because he studied with the utmost earnestness to deny himself and his own will, listening attentively to that fundamental maxim of the Eternal Truth, which St. Bennet, of whose holy order he became a bright light, repeats with great energy. This holy founder declares in the close of his rule, that, He who desires to give himself up to God, must trample all earthly things under his feet, renounce every thing that is not God, and die to all earthly affections, so as to attain to a perfect disengagement and nakedness of heart, that God may fill and entirely possess it, in order to establish therein the kingdom of his grace and pure love forever. And in his prologue he cries out aloud, that he addresses himself only to him who is firmly resolved in all things to deny his own will, and to hasten with all diligence to arrive at his heavenly kingdom.