Saint Oswald, King and Martyr
Oswald was the son of Ethelfrid the Ravager, King of the Northumbrians. After his father had been slain in battle by Redwald, King of the East Angles, he was carried into exile in Scotland, where he was taught the Faith of Christ and baptized. When he returned to his own country he found Cadwalla, King of the Britons, pitifully wasting everything. This Cadwalla had already slain three kings of the English, and was seeking to destroy all of that nation. Oswald gathered together a small army and, placing his trust in God, bravely attacked the countless hosts of the enemy. Before he joined battle he set up he standard of the Cross of the Lord with his own hands, knelt down, and prayed God to help a righteous war for the saving of the fatherland. He exhorted all his soldiers to do likewise, and so they did ; and all promised that if God granted them the victory they would believe in him who had been crucified. Thereupon they obtained an easy victory, and crushed the tyrant with all his legions. And the place where the Sign of the Cross was set up was afterwards called in the English language Heaven's Field ; and pieces of wood of this cross which Oswald erected were believed to have been the occasion of many miracles in later times.
Oswald being thus placed in possession of his kingdom was fain that all nations should receive the grace of Christian belief. Hence he sent forthwith into Scotland, praying them to send him a bishop, by whose teaching and ministry the English people might receive the Faith and Sacraments of Christ. Whereupon there was sent unto him blessed Aidan, unto whom the King granted at his own prayer the Island of Lindisfarne to be the See of his Bishoprick. After Aidan came many other Gospel-preachers, especially from the Island of Iona. By their preaching and the support given to them from the godliness and zeal of the King, Christ's own kingdom was wonderfully spread abroad in all the country between the Humber and the Forth ; churches were built in divers places, schools set up for the teaching of children, and monasteries founded by the King's bounty, so that the English might learn not only the greater studies but also the institutes of regular discipline. The King himself listened to the preaching of Aidan, and humbly and cheerfully granted all his wishes, and by his own illustrious example did much to set forward the cause of the Church throughout all his dominions. Now Aidan could not speak English well, and when he was preaching the Gospel there could often be seen the lovely spectacle of the King himself interpreting the heavenly Word to his own officers and servants.
Thus did this most devout King Oswald shew himself a loyal and ready subject of the eternal King of kings, and by this he was glorified as regards his temporal dominion more than all that had been before him, so that nearly all the provinces of all Britain came under his sway ; and nevertheless he was never tainted with pride, but was always lowly, kindly, and open-handed to Christ's poor and to strangers. When he had happily reigned for eight years he was encompassed in battle by heathen rebels ; and when he saw that he was bound to perish, he called for the divine mercy for himself and for the souls of them that were about to slay him ; namely, in the year of Christ 642, and of his own age the thirty-eighth, upon the 5th day of August, upon the which day mention is made of his memory in the Martyrology. How precious was his death in the sight of the Lord became afterwards manifest by countless miracles obtained through his intercession.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast hallowed this day to be a day of gladness and rejoicing by the Martyrdom of thy blessed Saint King Oswald : we pray thee, pour into our hearts such an increase of thy charity, that like as we do honour his glorious battle for thy Faith, so we may imitate him in constancy even unto death. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.