St. Drithelm of Melrose, Hermit
Born in Northumbria, England; died c. 700. Terrified by a vision of hell, recorded by the Venerable Bede, Saint Drithelm embraced the eremitical life in a cell under the direction of Melrose (Maelros) Abbey, Scotland (Benedictines).
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At the very end of the sixth century, there lived a pious man, a good husband and father, who seemingly came to the end of his natural life but then lived for seven years more.
His name was Drithelm, and he lived with his family in Northumbria.
Everyone was sad and troubled when Drithelm got very sick. And when it appeared that he had died of his illness, they were of course even more distressed. His loved ones took care of the things people were expected to do for the newly dead; and for that first long night, they sat up with his body. Common threads run through human events of this sort, no matter where they happen.
That probably makes it harder to imagine what thoughts went through the mourners’ heads the next morning when, from the place where his body had been laid out, Drithelm sat up!
To say they were surprised can’t begin to convey their reaction. First of all, almost everyone ran away.
Imagine, then, their amazement when his wife told them Drithelm had comforted her, saying, “Be not afraid, for I am now truly risen from death and allowed again to live among men. But hereafter I am not to live as I have been wont but rather in a very different manner.”
What this new pattern would be was made clear as soon as Drithelm had gone to the church and prayed.
On his return, he divided all that he owned into three parts. One part he gave to his wife, and one part to their children; and the third part he laid aside for the poor.
Shortly thereafter, he entered a monastery, and lived in a cell for the next seven years, when he died and did not awaken again on earth.
While with the monks, he didn’t talk to everyone about his defining experience; he spoke of it only to those who were the most sincere about deepening their spirituality.
Others were often amazed by his conduct. For instance, as penance, he would do things like standing in freezing river waters, reciting prayers while ice floated around him; or he would otherwise mortify his body for the sake of his soul.
When onlookers remarked wonderingly on how he could stand such pain. for pain it certainly was, or how he could endure such cold, Drithelm’s answer was short, simple, and profound:
I have seen greater hardship, he said;
I have seen greater cold.
- Celtic and Old English Saints – 17 August . 2016. Celtic and Old English Saints – 17 August . [ONLINE] Available at: http://celticsaints.org/2016/0817a.html. [Accessed 17 August 2016].
- Image: Z historie křesťanství na území Británie. 2016. Z historie křesťanství na území Británie. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.orthodoxia.cz/svati/britan.htm. [Accessed 17 August 2016].