Our Patron Saint – St. Alfred, Bishop of Hildesheim
St. Alfred was born into an aristocratic family in Saxony, Germany at around 800 AD. Not long before he was born, King Charlemagne of the Franconian Empire conquered the Saxons after some long and bitter battles. The Saxons were converted to Christianity. St. Alfred was born to a family of new converts. Little is known about the exact date and place of his birth.
He was probably educated at a convent. At the time, there were only two sources of education – schools opened by imperial courts and schools run by convents.
St. Alfred became Bishop of Hildesheim in 851 AD, and initiated the construction of the first cathedral of the city, which lasted two decades. On 1 November 872, the cathedral was consecrated by the saint himself and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, St. Cosmas and St. Damian, St. Cecilia, St. Valerian and St. Tiburtius as patron saints. A cathedral school was also opened, which became the foundation of the educational system in Hildesheim.
The saint had founded many convents and seminaries. The most important one was the Canonesses Convent in Essen. He funded this convent which was built on his inherited land. With donations from generous donors across generations, the convent became one of the richest in Germany. The church therein was consecrated by St. Alfred, and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the Holy Mother of God, St. Cosmas and St. Damian. St. Alfred personally brought the relics of the two martyr saints from Rome.
Bishops at that time were greatly revered in the kingdom and were often given duties by the kings. St. Alfred’s level of involvement in the politics of his time may be a little unimaginable to us today. After King Charlemagne’s death, his descendants divided up his kingdom. Disputes and feuds happened often as the princes fought for expansion of power.
St. Alfred was a good friend and adviser to Ludwig der Deutsche, king of East Fraconia. He was often given diplomatic duties to negotiate with the king’s brothers and nephews.
His adherence to justice and his political wisdom had brought successes to his diplomatic missions and earned him the reputation of a genius.
On 15 August 874, which was a Sunday and the day of the Assumption, St. Alfred passed away after some two decades as Bishop of Hildesheim. He was buried at the Essen Cathedral.
We do not know when devotion to St. Alfred began, but it surely began next to his tomb.
The almanac of bishops of Essen which was edited in the 12th century has a record that says: - “Alfred passed away at an advanced age and joined rank with the saints. He was buried at the Essen Cathedral which he built and consecrated. Ever since then, there have been many miraculous healings. Pilgrims from other places bear witness to these matters.”
In 1965, Pope Paul VI approved a feast day for Alfred, Bishop and Confessor, who had been regarded as a saint for centuries. Mass in his honour can since be celebrated. The long-time devotion to the saint was finally recognized by the Church. St. Alfred is the patron saint of our parish and we celebrate his feast day every August. We pray that through the intercession of St. Alfred, God will grant parishioners faith, solidarity and zeal for evangelization.
Lord Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)