Yesterday, I visited my aunt and uncle who live in the little Sussex town of Steyning. The splendid medieval church formerly housed the shrine of St Cuthman (see my previous post). Steyning lies in the Adur Valley, so my trip also gave me the chance to have dinner with the parish priest, Fr Sean Finnegan (formerly of Valle Adurni).
Today sees the feast of a very interesting English saint: Theodore of Canterbury, one of the most important of our Primates. He was born at Tarsus (Cilicia), educated at Athens, captured by Persians as a youth and lived as a monk in Rome (probably at Sant' Anastasio, having been driven westwards by the Arab conquests). Pope Vitalian recognised his holiness and ability and so appointed him as Archbishop of Canterbury in 666 (an ominous year!), replacing Wighard, who had died as he made his way to Rome to receive the pallium.
This Greek archbishop remained in England until his death in 690, visiting his Province, setting up a school at Canterbury (including a song school) and organising the Synod of Hertford (672), which helped unify the Roman, Celtic and British elements in the Church and consolidate the jurisdiction of Canterbury. Another synod was held at Hatfield in c.680, resulting in a declaration of orthodoxy in the monothelite controversy (ie the heresy that Jesus had two natures but one will).
It's amazing that one of our greatest Archbishops came all the way from Cilicia to Canterbury in the seventh century, at the bidding of the Pope, demonstrating that England was very much part of the Universal Church.
St Theodore, pray for us!