Thursday, 20 March 2014

Feast of St Cuthbert - Anam Cara


Information about the life of Cuthbert here

seal off Cuthbert's isle
In my heart I feel a great similarity between Cuthbert and Francis of Assisi. Cuthbert doesn't seem to carry the angst that Francis suffers; perhaps because elder 'brother' Aidan had gone before him. He holds the same sense of mindfulness of the world around him; tales of praying otters and friendly 'Cuddy' (Eider) ducks add to the sense of a man at one with creation.

Like Aidan he carries with him the sense of God's hospitality which results in a ministry of welcoming others with a kindness that is both physical and spiritual. The wildness of Lindisfarne is even now held in a breath of God's peace which captures the pilgrim with the first step onto the island and is in everything.

Massie's Cafe
If you have not visited then you may imagine that the island as some kind of open air cathedral with 'quiet please' signs on every corner. In fact, the change of the tide brings a wealth of visitors; pilgrims, fishermen, photographers, National Trust members, birdwatchers, ramblers, families with buckets and spades. There is a camp for inner-city and underpriviledged children, a varied selection of B&B's, hotels, holiday cottages and, yes, even retreat houses. And people live there, work there and commute there -and back again. In spite of the vaguaries of weather and tide - even the children sometimes have to board off-island - it is a home and a place of welcome. 

view across to Bamburgh; 
The wisdom and healing of Cuthbert called to just as many people way back then - Anam Cara meaning soul friend - despite the difficulties of travelling and the waiting on the capricious nature of wind and wave. And whilst the grace of God may be without measure; there is a human cost; even the most compassionate of friends needs a time to rest. 

Before he headed out to the remote refuge of the Farne islands, Cuthbert found a space apart on a little outcrop isle now known as Cuthbert's Island - this place being cut off even from Lindisfarne itself at certain points of the tide. 

Cuthbert's isle 
Arriving on Lindisfarne my first call is often the hill overlooking the isle to gauge the likelihood of getting on during the day. This has to be measured with care as the tide moves in rapidly over rocks and quicksand catching your balance even when quite shallow. The remains of a chapel capture the heart with thoughts of nights spent in prayer and rest held against the heart of God and sometimes against the furies of the Spirit's storms. 

Cuthbert's chapel
The tip of the isle is called the promontory and is a place to stand against the wind and the gaze of the setting sun.

Some Christians question the need for saints; surely the personal relationship with Jesus is all we should strive for. But I have a need of friends who have gone before; as brothers and sisters who can lead me home.  From my first step on this island it felt that Cuthbert holds a place that I can call home. 

Cuthbert's Isle from Lindisfarne


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