St Walstan of Taverham
St Walstan was born in the village of Bawburgh. He derived his parentage of distinguished royal stock, his father being called Benedict, his mother Blida.
From his earliest childhood, he showed himself in the true intention of his mind to be obedient to the divine will in all things. He showed himself full of the grace of humility towards the greatest and the least, devoid of all pride and arrogance, striving with all his mind and in all honesty to be humble with dove-like simplicity.
When he reached the age of twelve, imbued in the spirit by divine inspiration and by the evangelical teaching, “He who will not renounce all that he has, cannot be My disciple”… St Walstan renounced against their will all right of royal succession to which he was entitled thereafter. And so that he might be at leisure to devote himself more freely to prayer and other acts of contemplation without the pomp of the world, he left his birthplace, and did not delay to reach northern parts as quickly as he could.
In the name of Christ, Walstan bound himself in servitude and as it were in the strictness of obedience to a certain inhabitant of the vill of Taverham so that he should humbly serve him in all things. To such an extent did he give to the poor the victuals supplied for this own sustenance, but he also distributed his clothes and shoes to needy and sick people, exposing himself bare-foot to various sufferings.
When one day a certain pauper asked alms of St Walstan and he was moved with great pity, he gave his own footwear to the pauper, on condition that the pauper should not reveal the gift to anyone. But … it happened that the evil and most pernicious wife of the man whom St Walstan was serving found out about this gift. Astutely inventing some plausible necessity, she sent without delay the most holy confessor Walstan barefoot to the wood in order to load thorns and thistles on to a cart. But since Almighty God defends his faithful in all dangers, he miraculously visited St Walstan, so that he sat and boldly stood with the bare soles of his feet on the sharpest points of the thorns and thistles without suffering any harm from their punctures, as if they were roses redolent with the sweet fragrance … When the woman saw this miracle, she recognised the guilt of her iniquity and, throwing herself in floods of tears at Walstan’s feet, she begged forgiveness. The man of God benignly raised her to her feet and forgave her all the injury she had done to him.
When his master saw the signs and miracles which St Walstan performed … he came to love him devoutly, and publically declared that he would make him his heir … St Walstan rejected this promise with all of his heart, and he asked for nothing for his labour more than the offspring to be born to a certain cow … so that God’s will might be fulfilled through them.
When one Friday, St Walstan was scything with a companion in a certain meadow, the angel of God appeared to him and said, “Brother Walstan, on the third day from today you will enter paradise”, and at once vanished from sight. Walstan thanked God for this divine revelation … and without delay asked and most devoutly received confession and with great contrition of heart the sacrament of the precious body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Extreme Unction from the priest.
When the time of Walstan’s death came, that is the Monday of the following week, he went out as usual to work in the meadow with his companions. There he called together his master and certain other honest companions … and commended his soul to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints. He added in addition that his body should be decently placed in a cart, and that his two bulls should be yoked to it and, without any driver, should take it wherever God ordains … And at once in the aforesaid meadow he rendered his spirit to Almighty God.
Honest persons who were there put the holy body of Walstan on his cart as he had ordained, and the bulls took the road directly towards the wood of Costessey … When the bulls with the holy body entered a pool of very deep water … the wheels of the cart passed over the yielding and naturally liquid surface of the water as if over land …
Another miracle also happened. When … the bulls stood for a while with the body of St Walstan on top of a steep hill, a spring of water … appeared … and through divine mercy is still there.
The bulls went down from that place with the precious body towards the vill of Bawbugh. When they had come almost to the place where the body now lies buried, they made another stop in a certain place where … the divine piety made another spring of wonderful power against fevers and many other infirmities, which is still there today. The body of the holy man Walstan was placed in the church of Bawbugh, which is dedicated in his name, and for love of him God performs diverse miracles.
That excellent man St Walstan migrated to the Lord in the year of Incarnation of Our Lord 1016, on 30 May. Sighing after him, dearest brothers, let us follow in his footsteps along the paths of truth and justice and of perfect humility, that we may be worthy to come with him to the realm of light and glory, in which God reigns, world without end. Amen.