St. Bega, Nun & Hermitess

6 September

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7th century; she is probably identical with the Saint Bega celebrated on October 31.

Saint Bega or Saint Bee was an Irish princess, whom a Norwegian prince sought in marriage. She, however, had already pledged herself and her virginity to Jesus and been given a bracelet by an angel marked with a cross as a token of her heavenly betrothal. On the eve of her wedding, as her father and her groom were celebrating in the hall, she escaped with the help of the bracelet. Seated on a clod of earth, she was taken across the sea to the coast of Cumberland.

There she lived as an anchoress, who was fed by the wild birds and, if left in peace, would have continued in this fashion. After being attacked by marauders, King Saint Oswald of Northumbria advised her to enter a convent. She therefore received the veil from Saint Aidan and established a monastery at Saint Bees (Copeland near Carlisle) which later became a cell of the great abbey of Saint Mary at York.

While the details as related above may be uncertain, Saint Bega is venerated in Northumbria. The promontory on which she lived is named Saint Bee's Head, and she is the patroness of the local people who were injured by the exactions of their lords and the invasions of the neighbouring Scots.

In her hermitage at Saint Bees (Cumbria) was kept what is presumed to be her miraculous bracelet, which has the Old English name beag that so closely resembled her that it may have given rise to her cultus. Oaths were sworn on the bracelet. The people treasured equally the stories of how Saint 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. There is also a place in Scotland called Kilbees, named after this saint (Benedictines, Farmer, Delaney, Husenbeth, Walsh).

For a fictionalised account of her life and the 664 Synod of Whitby read Malvyn Bragg's novel Credo, published in the States as The Sword and the Miracle.

Through the intercessions of St Bee and of all the Saints of Britain, Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!

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