Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saint Dunstan

I remember some of Dunstan's story from Robertson Davies' novel Fifth Business which describes the legend of St. Dunstan grabbing the devil's nose with a red-hot poker.

But I prefer the story that I presume to be more or less historical about Dunstan's time at court when the new king Eadwig was crowned and Dunstan was exiled.

The 16 year-old monarch had slipped away from his coronation banquet and was severely chastised by Abbot Dunstan--no respecter of persons--when he found him sequestered in a room with two women, mother and daughter, both making overtures with an eye to marriage. Resentful of such a reproof, Eadwig deprived Dunstan of his property and forced him out of the country, casting uncertainty over the future of England's monastic revival.

Making St. Dunstan the patron saint of youth groups, it seems to me.

I think he liked young people, and not in a creepy way. He later served as adviser to another teenage royal, Edward. And as an old man, retired as Archbishop of Canterbury, he taught at the Cathedral School for boys.

I'm sure it was different going through it, but at a remove of 10+ centuries, the thing that impresses me most about his varied and impressive career is that Dunstan seemed to take the vicissitudes of power and powerlessness, importance and unimportance with amazing grace. As if it didn't matter at all.

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