About Saint Edmund
St. Edmund’s Prayer
Lord, into your hands and into the hands of your holy angels, I entrust this day my life, my relations, my benefactors, my friends and enemies, and all people. By the merits and prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, keep me, Lord, this day from all vicious and unruly desires, from all sin and temptations of the devil, from sudden unprovided death and the pains of hell.
Enlighten my heart with the grace of your Holy Spirit; grant that I may ever be obedient to your commandments; never let me be separated from You, living and reigning with God, the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.
Prayer in Honor of St. Edmund of Canterbury
God, who raised up St. Edmund to be father of the poor and patron of afflicted children, please grant that I may learn from Edmund’s example how to love all God’s children, however poor or afflicted; that I may become, like him, eyes for the blind, feet for the lame, and a friend to strangers in trouble; and that by this intercession I may be protected from all evil and distress. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
St. Edmund (1174-1240)
Peacemaker, Father of the Poor, Patron of Afflicted Children
St. Edmund of Canterbury is remembered in France, England and America for his faithful life of love of God. In France, where he is buried, St. Edmund is known as the patron saint of afflicted and stillborn children. Edmund himself was considered a stillborn baby, showing signs of life only after the waters of baptism were poured over him.
In England, where he was born, St. Edmund is known as a peacemaker. In 1233, England was on the verge of civil war. When King Henry III brought in a foreign army to crush the rebellious barons, Edmund left his country parish to confront the King and plead for peace. Where experienced statesmen had failed, Edmund succeeded by sheer moral force, directed by God.
Edmund’s life began in Abingdon, a small village close to Oxford. As a young man, he became a noted professor of math and geometry at Oxford University. In mid-career, he was inspired by a dream to leave teaching and enter the priesthood.
After becoming a priest, Edmund left Oxford for a country parish near Salisbury. There he gave away his possessions to feed the poor and care for the sick. The Pope, learning of Edmund’s self-sacrificing spirit, named him Archbishop of Canterbury.
While journeying to Rome, Edmund fell sick and died in Pontigny, France. He was buried there at the abbey and many miracles took place at his tomb. Within six years, the pope declared him a saint.
Six centuries later, the Society of St. Edmund was founded at Pontigny. Now the Fathers of St. Edmund are involved in apostolates in England, the United States and Venezuela.
The Edmundites keep their patron’s memory alive by following his example of service to others. The Fathers of St. Edmund try to be, as Edmund was, “eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, father of the poor and friend to strangers in trouble.”
Stories from the life of St. Edmund
The First Breath of Life
Reginald, the ropemaker of Abingdon, and his wife, Mabel, both devoutly religious, were expecting their first child. They went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of King Edmund the Martyr. It was there that Mabel first felt the baby kick. “It will be a boy,” she told her husband. “We’ll name him Edmund.”
The child was born on November 20, the feast day of King Edmund, and it was a boy, as they had hoped. But the child was born dead. He lay cold and still and nothing the midwife did could make him respond in any way. In despair, Reginald told his wife that he would go prepare a grave for their firstborn child. “No, no,” cried Mabel. “Call the priest first and have the baby baptized.”
The pastor came. He expressed sympathy for the parents, and asked them what name they had planned for the child. “Edmund,” they said sadly. The priest poured water over little Edmund, baptizing him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. At once, the child began to stir. While his parents stared in amazement and joy, little Edmund began to cry.
To Mabel, her first son—later to be named Archbishop of Canterbury, was a special gift from the Lord. She raised him, and his brother and sisters born later, so that they might be her gifts to God.
A Mother’s Advice
The best advice St. Edmund’s mother gave him came one night in a dream after her death.
At the time, Edmund was a math teacher at Oxford in England, where he had been teaching for six years. His geometry course was very popular, and he had received his first doctor’s degree ever given by Oxford.
One night Edmund dreamt that he was about to give a lecture and had filled the blackboard with geometrical figures. Suddenly his mother appeared. “Son, what are these things on the blackboard?” she asked. “I’m lecturing on geometry, Mother,” he replied and started telling her what each figure meant.
Shaking her head, his mother picked up the chalk and drew three circles on the board. She pointed to each one in turn, saying, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Son, please study these figures from now on, and no others!”
When he woke up, Edmund spent a long time in prayer. He then decided that God’s will was for him to teach, not the triangles, but the Trinity. He went back to school, studied theology and became a priest.
A Saint’s Scolding
While treasurer of Salisbury, St. Edmund served as pastor of Calne, a small village about 15 miles away.
This was Edmund’s first parish, and the poverty of his people shocked and upset him. He began spending most of his salary to get food for the poor, and selling many of his possessions to help them.
One day Edmund found himself without either food or money. He had to go to a friend for help.
A former student of his, Stephen of Lexington, was abbot of a nearby community. Abbot Stephen was glad to see Edmund, but surprised to see him looking so thin and ragged. When he learned that his former professor had sold his books to feed the poor, the abbot was aghast.
After getting Edmund some supper, Abbot Stephen gave him a lecture as well. “You must learn some prudence, Father,” he scolded. “You can’t go on giving away everything you own!”
Edmund listened meekly and responded, “No doubt what you say is very wise, Stephen, but I find it better to err on the side of generosity.”
Society of Saint Edmund
The Edmundite Missions were started in 1937 by the Society of Saint Edmund in response to an appeal from Pope Pius XI to undertake a special apostolate to the African Americans of the Deep South. Over the years, the Edmundites have been joined by Sisters from several religious orders, who minister with the Fathers and Brothers of the Society, to provide direct assistance to the needy. In addition, dedicated lay people of many faiths have joined the Edmundites to extend a helping hand to the poor. The Missions also provide employment for members of the communities where the outreach programs are located.
The Society of Saint Edmund is a Roman Catholic religious community of priests and brothers founded in France in 1843.