5th August

Kingly Qualities

The Lord has sought out a man after the Lord’s own heart to be the leader of God’s people. 1 Samuel 13: 14

The ambitious king Cadwallon slew the two kings of Northumbria. Oswald, the brother of one of them, and a man beloved of God, arrived with a small army to oppose the invader. He placed a large cross in the ground, and as he held the cross he addressed the whole army: ‘let us all kneel, and together pray the true and ever living God to defend us from a proud and cruel enemy. For God knows that this is a just war which we fight in order to liberate our people’. They won the victory against huge odds. The place of battle is called Heavenfield to this day, to indicate that Heaven’s standard was set up there, Heaven’s victory won, and Heaven’s miracles continued. Many people were healed when splinters from this cross mingled with water were brought to them.

Oswald initiated a mission to his kingdom from Iona, and cared for the poor. He was deeply devout and rose early each day to pray. Under his rule the previously warring kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira became one people, although ethnic cleansing was normal in those days. Oswald died, still young, on the battlefield; his dying prayer was for the souls of his soldiers, not for himself.

In succeeding centuries peoples throughout Europe longed for examples of Christian kingship, and Oswald became a model far and wide. Many churches in the European Union are dedicated to St. Oswald.

King Baudouin of the Belgians once told a friend that his purpose in beingking was: to love his country; to pray for his country; to suffer for his country. At his funeral in 1993 Cardinal Suenens said: ‘We were in the presence of one who was more than a king; one who was a shepherd of his people’.

High King of heaven and earth
from whom all authority flows
may the diverse authorities of our times
acknowledge you as the Source of life
emulate you as the Servant King
and fear you as the Judge of truth.

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