Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent
March 31, 2023

Today’s online Lenten devotion focuses on the life and ministry of Saint Cuthbert, a monk, evangelist, and bishop of Lindisfarne. Saint Cuthbert lived in the seventh century and as a boy was put in charge of his father’s flocks. He was a natural leader and caretaker. Following a vision of the death of Saint Aidan, he was inspired to become a monk at Melrose and Ripon. He developed many gifts, including those of study, hospitality, preaching, healing, prophecy, and pastoral care. When a terrible plague swept through the area, the abbot of his monastic community died, and Cuthbert replaced him. Following the Synod of Whitby in 664 he was appointed to lead the depleted monastery at Linidsfarne. When he was not quite 40, he went to the rocky Inner Farne Island where he lived as a hermit to engage in uninterrupted spiritual contemplation. Nine years later he reluctantly agreed to become Bishop of Lindisfarne. His asceticism was complemented by his charm and generosity to the poor, and his reputation for gifts of healing and insight led many people to consult him, gaining him the name of the “Wonder Worker of Britain”. He returned to Farne Island to die. Eleven years after his death it was found that his body had not decomposed. Miracles occurred at his tomb and his shrine at Durham Cathedral drew multitudes as a major pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages.

One of the most charming stories about Cuthbert involves his special care for and friendship with animals. Cuthbert liked solitary prayer and contemplation with only the seabirds and seals for company. It was his habit to walk alone down to the seashore after dark. One of the monks of Lindisfarne was suspicious or intrigued about his behavior and followed him to see what he was doing in the dead of night. From his hiding place the monk watched Cuthbert wade out into the dark North Sea until the water reached his neck: the saint was chanting the Psalms with the rhythm of the waves. At the first light of dawn, he returned to the shore and knelt in the sand for more prayer. Two sea otters followed him out of the water. They warmed his feet with their breath and snuggled against his body to warm him with their fur. After Cuthbert petted them and gave them his affectionate blessing they returned to the water. Saint Cuthbert is known as the patron saint of otters.


Tender and compassionate God,
Who called Cuthbert from tending sheep
To be a shepherd of the people,
Help us, inspired by his example,
To heal the sick, to guard unity,
To respect your creation, and
To bring those who are lost home to your fold.