Saint Of The Month

St. Bega (or Bee), Virgin (Seventh Century)

She is the heroine of a legend which makes her the daughter of an Irish king, sought in marriage by a son of the king of Norway. She had, however, vowed herself a virgin to Christ, and had been given by an angel a bracelet marked with a cross as a token of her heavenly betrothal. The day before she was to be given to the prince, while her suitor and her father were reveling in the hall, she escaped with the help of this bracelet and, seated on a clod of earth, was navigated across the sea and landed safely on the coast of Cumberland. For a time she lived as an anchoress, and the sea-gulls, guillemots and gannets brought food for her sustenance; but human marauders were less kind, and she was advised by the king of Northumbria, St. Oswald, to become a nun. She therefore received the veil from St. Aidan and established a monastery at St. Bees (Copeland) which afterwards became a cell of the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary at York.

Whatever background of truth there may be in the legend of St. Bega, she was venerated in Northumbria. The promontory on which she lived is named St. Bee's Head after her, and she was the patroness of the people of the neighborhood, ground down between the exactions of their lords and the raids of the border Scots. They claimed even to possess her miraculous bracelet, and treasured equally the stories of how St. Bega in her earthly life had been devoted to the poor and oppressed and had cooked, washed and mended for the workmen who built her monastery.

- From Butler's Lives of the Saints, revised 1991

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