As I read through Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People I fell in love with a man named Aidan (died A.D. 651). What is it with these A guys? Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, Aidan… There are only two pages on his life (p.150-151 in Penguin Classics); but that is enough to win you to the winsome man who left the island of Iona to live in Lindisfarne. His life is marked by self-discipline and discretion.
Aiden was the most popular boy’s name in 2006. I’ve decided that everytime I know a family who names their son Aiden I will include a photocopy of these two pages with a card of congratulations. It is a lovely legacy.
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and whatever people he met on his walks, whether high or low, he stopped and spoke to them. (p.150)
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The Irish fathers therefore held a great conference to decide on the wisest course of action; for while they regretted that the preacher whom they had sent had not been acceptable to the English, they still wished to meet their desire for salvation.
Then Aidan, who was present at the conference, said to the priest whose efforts had been unsuccessful: ‘Brother, it seems to me that you were too severe on your ignorant hearers. You should have followed the practice of the Apostles, and begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching, and gradually nourished them with the word of God until they were capable of greater perfection and able to follow the loftier precepts of Christ.’
At this the faces and eyes of all who were at the conference were turned towards him; and they paid close attention to all he said, and realized that here was a fit person to be made bishop and sent to instruct the ignorant and unbelieving, since he was particularly endowed with the grace of discretion, the mother of virtues. They therefore consecrated him bishop, and sent him to preach. Time was to show that Aidan was remarkable not only for discretion, but for the other virtues as well. (p.151)