Chad of Mercia
Bishop of Mercia
Our father among the saints Chad of Mercia, (Old English: Ceadda), was a Anglo-Saxon and the bishop of Mercia during the seventh century. A monastic leader, he was deeply involved with small communities of loyal monks, as brothers, who formed his missionary teams, as well as Cedd and his other actual brothers with whom he was inextricably linked. His consciousness was strongly eschatological, that is focussed on the last things and their significance. His feast day is 2nd March.
Little is known of the early life of Chad, including the date and place of his birth. What is known is based on the writings of St. Bede, which as Bebe noted contained information he received from the monks of Lastingham. Chad was one of four brothers, of whom the others were Cedd, Cynibil, and Caelin. They probably were all from Northumbrian nobility. Chad was born about 634. He was a student of St. Aiden at the Celtic monastery at Lindisfarne, probably during the late fourth and early fifth decades of the seventh century. During the time of the plague, about 650, Chad, accompanied by Egbert, visited Ireland for several years as part of his monastic education. He returned to Northumbria in 664.
In 664, Chad succeeded his brother Cedd, who had founded the monastery at Lastingham, as the abbot of the monastery after Cedd had died of the plague. At the time wide spread deaths among the hierarchs on Great Britain caused by the plague made difficult assembling the requisite three bishops needed for a consecration. Thus, candidates for vacant sees had to travel great distances for their consecration. When the see of Northumbria (York) became vacant following the death of Bishop Tuda of York in 664, Wilfrid, the choice of sub-King of Deira Alcfrith as Tuda’s replacement, traveled to Compiegne, in northern France, for his consecration. However, after he failed to return to Northumbria, King Oswui, Alcfrith’s father, convinced Chad to become bishop.
Chad was consecrated in Wessex by Bishop Wini of Dorchester and two dubious British bishops. In 666, Wilfrid returned to England and, finding his see occupied, retired to Ripon where he asserted his episcopal rank ordaining priests in Mercia and Kent. In 669, Theodore, having been sent by Pope Vitalian, arrived in England as Archbishop of Canterbury. Having been instructed about the irregularities in the ecclesiastical government of the island, Theodore installed Wilfrid as Bishop of York after having requested Chad to step-down as bishop. Theodore, impressed by Chad’s humility during the difficult task, confirmed Chad’s consecration as bishop and assigned him as abbot of Lastingham.
Later in 669, King Wulfhere of Mercia converted to Christianity and requested a bishop for his realm. Instead of consecrating a new bishop, Abp. Theodore called Bp. Chad from Lastingham and installed him as the Bishop of Mercia. The territory in Bp. Chad’s diocese included Lindsey as well as Mercia. At Lichfield, King Wulfhere provided Chad with land for a monastery at the center of the diocese which ultimately became a settlement.
For the next two and a half years Bp. Chad carried out missionary and pastoral work within the kingdom which covered a large area across England, from coast to coast. Then, on March 2, 672, Bp. Chad died, a victim of the plague, and was buried at the Church of St. Mary of Lichfield. His episcopate in Mercia, the Venerable Bede considered, was decisive in its Christianization.
According to the Venerable Bede, Bp. Chad soon began to be venerated as a saint. Over the following centuries, his relics were moved often, first to the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in 1148 and then to the Lady Chapel of the cathedral in 1296. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and shrines in 1538, his relics became divided and attempts to determine the path of his relics became a tortuous task. Some relics did, in 1841, find their way to enshrinement in the altar of the then new St. Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham, England. (more)