St. Ceada, or Chad, Bishop and Confessor

Author: Rev. Alban Butler


Feast: March 2

He was brother to St. Cedd, Bishop of London, and the two holy priests Celin and Cymbel, and had his education in the monastery of Lindisfarne, under St. Aidan. For his greater improvement in sacred letters and divine contemplation he passed into Ireland, and spent a considerable time in the company of St. Egbert till he was called back by his brother, St. Cedd, to assist him in settling the monastery of Lestingay, which he had founded in the mountains of the Deiri, that is, the Wolds of Yorkshire. St. Cedd being made Bishop of London, or of the East Saxons, left to him the entire government of this house. Oswi having yielded up Bernicia, or the northern part of his kingdom, to his son Alcfrid, this prince sent St. Wilfrid into France that he might be consecrated to the bishopric of the Northumbrian kingdom, or of York; but he stayed so long abroad that Oswi himself nominated St. Chad to that dignity, who was ordained by Wini, Bishop of Winchester, assisted by two British prelates, in 666. Bede assures us that he zealously devoted himself to all the laborious functions of his charge, visiting his diocese on foot, preaching the gospel, and seeking out the poorest and most abandoned persons to instruct and comfort in the meanest cottages and in the fields.

When St. Theodorus, Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in England, in his general visitation of all the English churches, he adjudged the see of York to St. Wilfrid. St. Chad made him this answer: "If you judge that I have not duly received the episcopal ordination, I willingly resign this charge, having never thought myself worthy of it: but which, however unworthy, I submitted to undertake in obedience." The archbishop was charmed with his candour and humility, would not admit his abdication, but supplied certain rites which he judged defective in his ordination: and St. Chad, leaving the see of York, retired to his monastery of Lestingay, but was not suffered to bury himself long in that solitude Jaruman, Bishop of the Mercians, dying, St. Chad was called upon to take upon him the charge of that most extensive diocese.1 He was the fifth bishop of the Mercians, and first fixed that see at Lichfield, so called from a great number of martyrs slain and buried there under Maximianus Herculeus; the name signifying the field of carcasses. Hence this city bears for its arms a landscape, covered with the bodies of martyrs. St. Theodorus, considering St. Chad's old age, and the great extent of his diocese, absolutely forbade him to make his visitations on foot, as he used to do at York. When the laborious duties of his charge allowed him to retire, he enjoyed God in solitude with seven or eight monks, whom he had settled in a place near his cathedral. Here he gained new strength and fresh graces for the discharge of his functions; he was so strongly affected with the fear of the divine judgments that as often as it thundered he went to the church and prayed prostrate all the time the storm continued, in remembrance of the dreadful day in which Christ will come to judge the world. By the bounty of King Wulfere, he founded a monastery at a place called Barrow, in the province of Lindsay (in the northern part of Lincolnshire), where the footsteps of the regular life begun by him remained to the time of Bede.

Carte conjectures that the foundation of the great monastery of Bardney, in the same province, was begun by him. St. Chad governed his diocese of Lichfield two years and a half, and died in the great pestilence on the 2nd of March, in 673. Bede gives the following relation of his passage: "Among the eight monks whom he kept with him at Lichfield, was one Owini, who came with Queen Ethelred, commonly called St. Audry, from the province of the East Angles, and was her major-domo, and the first officer of her court, till quitting the world, clad in a mean garment, and carrying an axe and a hatchet in his hand, he went to the monastery of Lestingay, signifying that he came to work, and not to be idle; which he made good by his behaviour in the monastic state. This monk declared that he one day heard a joyful melody of some persons sweetly singing, which descended from heaven into the bishop's oratory, filled the same for about half an hour, then mounted again to heaven. After this, the bishop opening his window, and seeing him at his work, bade him call the other seven brethren. When the eight monks were entered his oratory, he exhorted them to preserve peace, and religiously observe the rules of regular discipline; adding that the amiable guest who was wont to visit their brethren had vouchsafed to come to him that day, and to call him out of this world. Wherefore he earnestly recommended his passage to their prayers, and pressed them to prepare for their own, the hour of which is uncertain, by watching, prayer, and good works." The bishop fell presently into a languishing distemper, which daily increased, till, on the seventh day, having received the body and blood of our Lord, he departed to bliss, to which he was invited by the happy soul of his brother St. Cedd and a company of angels with heavenly music. He was buried in the Church of St. Mary, in Lichfield; but his body was soon after removed to that of St. Peter, in both places honoured by miraculous cures, as Bede mentions. His relics were afterwards translated into the great church which was built in 1148, under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin and St. Chad, which is now the cathedral, and they remained there till the change of religion.1 See Bede, lib. iii. c. 28; lib. iv. c. 2 and 3.


1 The first Bishop of the Mercians was Diuma, a Scot; the second Keollach, of the same nation; the third Trumhere, who had been Abbot of Gethling, in the kingdom of the Northumbrians; the fourth Jaruman.

(Taken from Vol. I of "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company)