Saint Winifred of Holywell

The story of St Winifred (or Winefride), the young noblewoman born around the year 600 in Holywell, Wales, emerges from a mixture of historic manuscripts, legend and tradition. But it is above all a story about a pure and gifted soul who was prepared to sacrifice everything, and indeed her very life, so as to live for Divine Love alone.

Already as a fifteen year old, St Winifred embraced a life of devotion and austerity, and would keep many night vigils in church. A charming and intellectually gifted girl, she grew in virtue and knowledge under the guidance of her uncle, St Beuno (priest, missionary and abbot), and with her parents’ consent prepared to consecrate herself to God.

However, the neighbouring Prince Caradoc, who had learned of her beauty and gifts, came to her house to seek her hand in marriage. On arrival he found Winifred alone, her parents having gone early to Mass. Hearing of her resolution to live a consecrated life, the impassioned Prince besieged her with pleas, advances and threats. Terrified and protective of her innocence, the girl ran towards the church where St Beuno was celebrating Mass. The thwarted Caradoc followed her in a rage and, overtaking her on a slope, drew his sword and severed her head from her body. The head rolled down and on the spot where it rested, a spring gushed forth. As soon as this news reached him, St Beuno left the altar and found her head beside the spring. He carried it to the body, covered both with his cloak and returned to complete the Holy Sacrifice. After Mass, kneeling beside the young girl’s body, St Beuno beseeched God in prayer and had the cloak removed. As if waking from a deep sleep, Winifred is said to have arisen with no sign of the decapitation apart from a faint white circle around her neck. Caradoc stood by, insolent and defiant; according to popular belief, when St Beuno invoked heaven’s chastisement upon him, he was struck dead and swallowed up by the ground beneath him.

Following her miraculous restoration to life, Winifred lived as a mystic in virginity, poverty and reclusion. She became abbess of a convent built on her father’s land and later, having fled from the Saxons, found refuge in Gwytherin, with St Elwy, the author of her first biography. There Winifred and her companion nuns joined an established community where she is said to have lived “as an acknowledged saint on earth, first in humble obedience to the abbess and, after the latter’s death, as abbess herself” until her own death on November 3rd c. 650. Her grave there was a place of pilgrimage until her body was taken to Shrewsbury in 1138.

In recent times a fragment of an eighth-century reliquary from Gwytherin, the Arch Gwenfrewi (Winifred’s Casket), was found, witnessing her status as a recognised saint almost from the moment of her death – the earliest such surviving evidence for any Welsh saint.

The details of St. Winifrede’s life are gathered from a manuscript in the British Museum, said to have been the work of the British monk, Elerius (St Elwy) and also from a manuscript life in the Bodleian Library, generally believed to have been compiled around 1130 by Robert, prior of Shrewsbury.

The Holywell Cure Tradition

After St Winifred’s miraculous return to life and the simultaneous appearance of a new spring, St Beuno set off from Holywell to Cærnarvon. Tradition relates that prior to his departure he seated himself upon the stone, which now stands at the site near the spring in the outer well pool, and there promised in the name of God “that whosoever on that spot should thrice ask for a benefit from God in the name of St. Winifred would obtain the grace he asked if it was for the good of his soul”. Ever since, people have made pilgrimages to St Winifred’s holy well. There they have bathed and prayed for over 1,350 years.

A larger outer pool was later added, a testament to the great numbers of pilgrims who flocked to Holywell even in times of persecution. By the late 19th century, as pilgrims were arriving in their thousands, a branch rail line into Holywell was built.  A carving opposite the bath depicts healthy pilgrims bearing the sick through the waters on their backs. The stonework of the well is covered with graffiti, initials of hopeful or grateful pilgrims, some clearly testifying to cures received at the shrine. The well crypt was stacked with discarded crutches and each reported cure was recorded in the popular press. Holywell soon came to be known as the ‘Lourdes of Wales’.

For many centuries there has been a continuous record of cures and other favours claimed at the well through the prayers of St Winifred. Despite the increasing secularism of our time and the general decrease in religious devotion, people from all walks of life still come to Holywell on pilgrimage. To this day they pray at the shrine, in the chapel and as they bathe. They come individually or in groups, for silent prayer, for prayer services, candlelight processions and Masses. As they bathe, they pass three times through the small inner bath, praying a decade of the Rosary. They then enter the outer pool to complete their prayers kneeling on St Beuno’s Stone. Some pray for a cure, others offer up the discomfort of the icy waters for loved ones, or simply in honour of St Winifred, or as a gesture of thanksgiving. A water pump near the pool provides a steady supply of the healing water for drinking or pouring into bottles. There is now a small library, museum and repository shop.

To quote directly from Holywell – Clwyd, by Roy Fry & Tristan Gray Hulse:

“Centuries of letters testify to the power of God and His saints in this place: records of cures not only of Catholics, but of Protestants and even of those without faith. One account, touching in its simplicity, a scrap of paper left at the Well a hundred years ago, can stand for all the rest:

A Protestant father wishes to return thanks to God that through the use of St Winifred’s water, his only daughter was cured miraculously, three years ago of a serious malady, which had resisted the efforts of several doctors and friends for the period of three and a half years.


C.T. Longley”

Saint Winifred of Holywell, pray for us!

Additional source: Catholic encyclopaedia.

See here for the official site of the shrine of St Winifred in Holywell.

This entry was posted in Catholic Culture, Church History, Devotion, Saints and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Saint Winifred of Holywell

  1. Pingback: Joyful Papist

  2. joyfulpapist says:

    A head has to top a limb, Toad.


  3. Mimi says:

    St Winifred is a familiar old friend to all readers of Ellis Peters’s “Brother Cadfael” novels. 😉


  4. toadspittle says:

    …reads my mind. Uncanny.

    “IF… you can lose your head, while all around you are keeping theirs and blaming it on you – and then get it back!you’ll be a saint, my girl!

    What a story! Sex, violence, happy ending ( head back on) the lot!

    What a movie it will make. I see it all now. Mel Gibson as Caradoc, of course – though it would have been a shoe-in for Richard Burton, had he not gone to his reward. And what a Winifred Liz Taylor would have made. Ah, all this sadly dates old Toad.
    Having a Saint for an Uncle smacks of nepotism a trifle, though.
    That part would have been a nice little earner for Alec Guinness, too.
    All long-bearded and sage, and spouting arcane gibberish, like in Star Wars.
    So, by default, Madonna as Winifred? Bit old, though…

    …And, less seriously, we have our very own spring of healing holy water not a mile from our village – the Fuente de San Martin.
    So far, Toad seems resistant to its curative qualities. Off to Lourdes, perhaps? Maybe get a fresh new head.


  5. mmvc says:

    Such water sources seem to appear in some places of supernatural manifestation, such as Marian apparitions. Lourdes is an obvious example. Perhaps, through the healings that occur, they are in some way a confirmation from heaven. Certainly many pilgrims are drawn to these shrines. The purifying, healing and restorative qualities of pure water have no doubt been recognised and ritually celebrated by peoples of all faiths across the ages. For Christians, of course, this is manifested in the richly symbolic sacramental waters of baptism.


  6. manus2 says:

    So, for our heroic saint, it’s a question of heads you lose, tales you win. Conversely for our mature Toad reflecting back over his life, it’s more like tails you lose, heads you win.

    I’m sure I’ll do extra time in Purgatory for that.


  7. toadspittle says:

    Manus, I’ll put in a word for you. I know some people there. I expect.


  8. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad says: Manus, I’ll put in a word for you. I know some people there. I expect.

    You’d have to ‘pray’ to them then, my dear Toad.


  9. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad says: Manus, I’ll put in a word for you. I know some people there. I expect.

    You’d have to ‘pray’ to them then, my dear Toad.

    Think of the possible consequences.


  10. golden chersonnese says:

    mmvc, thanks again for a ripping saint story and a lovely icon too. I heard once that in Orthodox churches the only icon of a Western saint the priest will cense is that of St Francis of Assissi. He’s about the only one they recognise or feel might be one of them. No doubt brother rabit could enlighten us further in this connection if only he would come out of his burrow (burro?) for a tick.

    Speaking of St Francis and his brother ass, the story of St Winifred calls to mind much of the hagiography surrounding the poor man of Assissi and other saints – things like wolves and birds etc that he parleyed with.

    I must say that to me the story seems other than historical, which is not to say that it is not full of lessons about God’s abundant love, mercy, grace and providence.

    Could I be so bold as to ask you about any investigations into the historicity of the accounts of St Winifred’s life?

    Which makes me think of Wales and of the fight they put up against the Anglican reformation in that country which saw not a few distinguished heads severed, hanging and so forth.

    Winifred is a name also that means something to me more than most, I would think, being the name of a cousin of mine, who was quite a looker before losing an arm in a train accident which led to her struggling with depression for many years before ending her own life.


  11. toadspittle says:

    Golden Chersonnese: Welcome back.

    Of course I’ll ‘pray’ to my friends in Purgatory.
    Though they may not recognise me with my shiny new head.


  12. golden chersonnese says:

    Thank you, Toad, and I feel truly sorry for your little gods and you and reb.



  13. golden chersonnese says:

    I’m not sure that souls in purgatory may respond to prayers, though my expereince would suggest they can.

    Will you cope if they do?


  14. golden chersonnese says:

    In for a penny in for a pound.

    The story of holy healing wells reminds me of a recent other blog that will remain nameless, concerning the new pagans in Britain, as if we didn’t have loads of the real older ones here.

    In that blog of course the puritans and calvinists sang their usual four-square strains about how Catholics are unredeemed quasi-pagans, what with their holy wells, idols, beads, sacred bikkies, fat-bottomed boys and everything else.

    As if God the Creator would make such a magnificent material world for us as a wonderful saint-making machine and then decree that not one particle of it would He give to aid us in His sanctification of us (well, minus the fat-bottomed boys, anyway).

    Looks to me like these protestants pure and simple despise God’s creation and will have none of it.


  15. mmvc says:

    golden chersonnese,
    I understand that there are many visitors to the library at the shrine and no doubt some of them grapple with the very question you raise. There appear to be original manuscripts containing certain details of St Winifred’s life, but I guess it is likely that the story has been embellished in the course of time.

    The official St Winifred shrine website sheds some light on the question of historicity. I’ve copied some relevant paragraphs below. I hope you find it helpful:

    For modern men and women, it is not so much the wonderful restorations to health which happened and still happen at the Well which pose a problem of belief and understanding, but the double “miracle” at the heart of the medieval legend of St Winefride which initiated the pilgrimage and the sequence of healings – the sudden appearance of the water and the resurrection of the dead woman. How is one to interpret the legend, without explaining away the truth that countless numbers of people down the centuries have found at its core?

    Of course, before modern times these miracles presented no real problem: to God, after all, all things were possible. Every Christian believed that the Son of God rose from the dead after His crucifixion; and before that Jesus had restored His friend Lazarus to life, in order, as He prayed to His Father, “that they may believe that Thou hast sent me” (St John 11:42).

    The legend of St Winefride was only written down 500 years after the events it describes were said to have occurred. But it is important to recognise that Winefride and Beuno were real people who had really lived in 7th-century Wales.

    Their written “Lives” are not history as this is understood today, but symbolic explorations of such facts about them that local oral tradition had preserved. Historians are free to interpret this rich mixture of fact and legend as best fits all the information.

    An economical explanation would tell us that the Well was always here, but took on a new meaning in the light of the events that happened beside it in the 7th century; and then with time this meaning suggested to tradition that the Well itself was new. Beuno’s own medieval Welsh “Life” strongly suggests that he had an extraordinary power to heal troubled minds. Perhaps it was that Winefride was not killed in the brutal rape attack, but was severely wounded and traumatised, to be nursed back to mental and physical health, to “new life”, by St Beuno. Both “Lives” of St Winefride stress the scars that she bore to the end of her life.

    The martyrdom of St Winefride is illustrated in a window in St Winefride’s Catholic church in Holywell. The window was presented by pilgrims in 1860
    The “Lives” also stress that people came to visit the girl who had returned to life, and to see the scars that witnessed to that restoration. Symbolically, Winefride had returned from the dead. But the medieval exploration of the symbolism went further than this, as the “Lives” and other medieval texts reveal. Like Lazarus, Winefride pointed towards the resurrection of Jesus, and beyond Jesus, to the eventual resurrection of all who would believe in Him. Symbolically, Winefride’s resurrection guaranteed to all who cared to meditate upon her story the general resurrection promised to all believers. The symbolism went further still. Christian teaching understood that believers were incorporated into Christ through the sacrament of baptism; the going into and coming out of the baptismal font was experienced as a death to sin and a rising to new life; and baptism was in this way the means of approaching the general resurrection.

    Winefride – the Welsh Lazarus – went down into death and returned to life through a special mercy of God. For Christians, their baptism paralleled this experience. And, like Winefride going down to death and rising to life, and like the Christian entering the waters of baptism and coming forth to spiritual wholeness, the sick pilgrim to Holywell went down into the waters of the Well and came out restored to health. Symbolically imitating Winefride, renewing their own baptisms, and incorporating themselves into Christ, all devout pilgrims to Holywell have experienced their pilgrimage as a profound symbol of their whole spiritual life.


    I will pray for your poor cousin.


  16. toadspittle says:

    “Looks to me like these protestants pure and simple despise God’s creation and will have none of it.”

    Wrong end of the telescope, I suggest, Golden. If these Prots P&S truly believed in God’s creation they couldn’t possibly despise it. And they couldn’t despise it unless they believed in it.
    Anyway, it seems to me, that whether or not one believes in God, it is hard to ‘despise’ the world as a fact, as a state of affairs, as a ‘thing in itself.’
    Deplore it, maybe, delight in it, maybe, simply endure it? But despise it? To find it so contemptible that one wants no part of it?
    There’s always ‘the door’ as Epictetus (If I remember rightly) says.
    Matter of what a word means, I suppose.

    And many thanks for your concern re the Furries. To lose two within a month begins to look like carelessness. (Which it wasn’t.)

    Mind you, I am idiotic about ‘my’ critturs, so serves me right..


  17. Gertrude says:

    If anyone is interested in the Saints of Wales, I recommend where there are really well researched backgrounds to many Welsh saints – including some of the more obscure ones! There is also a podcast about St.Winefred.


  18. golden chersonnese says:

    Maryla said:
    . . . all devout pilgrims to Holywell have experienced their pilgrimage as a profound symbol of their whole spiritual life.

    And there we have it, Maryla, for which I thank you.

    ‘History’ is such a multifarious thing that its usefulness may be questioned, as we now realise after the ideological horrors of the twentieth century, and also its ‘objectivity’, of which it seems to have none.

    If it is to benefit us it seems to me that the past needs to be pressed into the service of humility, love and moral endeavour – the spiritual life as you so rightly said, Maryla. And above all humility, I would say, as truth and goodness appear to flow from that or is the state without which spiritual growth is impossible (“For I am meek and lowly of heart . . .”). This is history in the story of St Winifred and, I would say, in much of the history presented in the Scriptures.

    Was it Dame Muriel Spark who said in one of her short novels (forget which one):

    Myth is history garbled and history is myth garbled.

    Thanks, Maryla, for your prayers for poor Winnie (we all called her that). I’m sure God will look after her as she came to Him on Christmas Day and she was a good soul and loved.


  19. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad said:
    Wrong end of the telescope, I suggest, Golden. If these Prots P&S truly believed in God’s creation they couldn’t possibly despise it. And they couldn’t despise it unless they believed in it.

    My dear Toad, either way they don’t seem to have much use for Creation, so much so that God might have just left out the whole enterprise. Then they could have just been disembodied angelettes whizzing about singing Scottish psalms from all ages.

    They seem to think that sitting in bare churches save for a bit of nice wooden panelling and a grand book is the nearest they can get to the above. Nothing else is kosher. For us Catholic quasi-pagans, we get amongst it all, like what you must see in Spain constantly.

    Although, dear Toad, we do note that certain Toads also appear to think at times that the world is a bit of a mistake.

    More furries soon, Toad?


  20. golden chersonnese says:

    And oh yes, Catholics have critturs and furries blest.


  21. golden chersonnese says:

    Hogging the blog, Gertrude, but many thanks for the website on Welsh saints, Gertrude.

    “Thou art of the Catholic Faith; from their church keep thyself wisely away lest thou walk into a pitfall. The English Bible is topsy-turvy, full of crooked conceits. In the parish church there is now, for preacher, a slip of a tailor demolishing the saints; or any pedlar, feeble of degree, who can attack the pope. Instead of altar, a sorry trestle; instead of Christ, mere bread. Instead of holy things, a miserable tinker making a boast of knavery. Instead of images, empty niches. They who conform to the new religion will lose the seven virtues of the Church of God, the communion of all saints, and the privilege of authority given by Jesus Christ Himself to pardon sin.”

    Venerable Richard Gwyn (Richard White), born circa 1537, martyred at Wrexham, Denbighshire, 1584.


  22. golden chersonnese says:

    Make that St Richard Gwyn, canonised 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales


  23. toadspittle says:

    golden chersonnese is right about the churches here.

    ‘Gilded,’ and ‘barbaric splendour,’ fail miserably. But, although Toad is a keen and devoted visitor of them, he sometimes can’t help but be a little appalled (but more amused) at the sheer vulgarity and sadism of much of the imagery. Chambers of Horrors, with smiling putti round the edges.
    Objectively, one can quite well see how someone from a different culture would get the impression Catholics are, or were, utterly deranged. Outsiders don’t have the Catholic’s lively sense of fun about depictions of wicked men “cutting off peoples’ arses with red-hot scissors,” (as Waugh impishly puts it) or serving up a couple of breasts on a salver, or enthusiastically decapitating grovelling Arabs, beaming all the while, and cheered on by the Heavenly Choir.
    Always plenty of swords in evidence. Be Kalashnikovs, nowadays, I suppose. Not the same, though. Things were different when Rabit was alive.

    As to the furry fools, we find we don’t need to go looking for replacements. Providence, in the form of the Camino, has a way of, well, providing.
    Some ‘Can’ ( Spanish for mutt) in search of a ‘cushy billet’ and a sausage, will trot along shortly.


  24. golden chersonnese says:

    Found a quote from Muriel Spark for you, dear Toad.

    “Art and religion first; then philosophy; lastly science. That is the order of the great subjects of life, that’s their order of importance.”

    — Muriel Spark

    Notice how, in a very untoadlike fashion, she puts philosophy second to art and religion, which two she seems to equate.

    Art and religion (how very Catholic), including the art of history-writing one supposes, like the history of St Winifred?


  25. toadspittle says:

    That is oad’s order of ascension.
    (One cannot live by art and philosophy alone.)


  26. toadspittle says:

    Toad’s ‘T’ fell off!


  27. golden chersonnese says:

    That’s probably why Spark is a more amusing read.


    It’s a very strange thing,
    As strange as can be,
    Whatever Miss T eats
    Turns into Miss T.

    (Definitely not Hegel or Toad, I think, but possibly Walter De La Mere?? And apparently you can give a whole science course on that.)


  28. golden chersonnese says:

    Teresa, I’ve just noticed if you take Hegel’s order of ascension as you’ve presented it, the first letters spell out out P R A T. Spooky that.

    I’m still working on Toad’s ascension.


  29. golden chersonnese says:

    Maryla, I’ve just noticed that the Orthodox of Britain celebrated Divine Liturgy at the at St Winefride’s Chapel at Holywell in October 2009 and that they make an annula pilgrimage there.

    No doubt then St Winnie’s icon gets a thorough censing once a year. That makes 2 Western saints who get an Orthodox holy smoking, Winifred and the poverello of Assissi.

    I’m quite thrilled that the Orthodox would seem to take so naturally to Catholic Holywell. It shows that our roots are really much the same.

    I heard once that an Eastern-rite Catholic bishop couldn’t recognise the icon of St Therese of Lisieux. After grunting “Who’s she?” to an acolyte he quickly moved on to the dozens of other icons needing attention.


  30. toadspittle says:

    “I’m still working on Toad’s ascension.” says golden chersonnese

    A kindly thought. But we Toads are very down-to-earth chaps, you know.


  31. toadspittle says:

    A chance to have a relaxing weekend laugh at the crazed ravings of a madman.
    Let’s just try cutting off his head, and seeing if it gets stuck back on!
    Not a prayer!


  32. deaconjohn25 says:

    We need to hear more about saints who have a reputation for having been ascetics or were “austere” –like St. Winefrede
    The pope just said again that the Church needs to be purified. The only way for that to happen is for Catholics to stop trying to combine hedonism, lust for things, pleasure, and ever-growing materialist consumption–prodded and stimulated by the advertising industry.– with true devotion to the cross of Christ..


  33. kathleen says:

    Oh Toad, you’ve spoilt my ‘relaxing’ weekend 😦 !

    But going back to this extraordinary event of the miracle of St Winifred’s severed head being reunited to her body (part myth? legend? truth?) reminds me of another amazing miracle that I first heard about when some years ago I visited the basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in the city of Zaragoza, Spain, on pilgrimage. This far better documented miracle, called the Miracle of Calanda, which involved the amputation of a man’s gangrened leg, that two and a half years later was restored to him, occurred approximately 1000 years later than St Winifred’s. It caused a tremendous uproar in the whole district, but no one could dispute that this same man, Juan Pellicer, who had lost his leg, had hobbled around on a wooden one for all this time, was suddenly healed. Read the whole incredible story:

    Juan Pellicer had faith in the power of the Blessed Mother of God. He prayed to her for help. Didn’t Jesus tell us that if we had true Faith we could move mountains? Nothing is impossible for God, so who is to say that the amazing story of St Winifred is not true too? Certainly Holywell is indeed a holy place as testified by all the subsequent miracles occurring there.


  34. mmvc says:

    “Nothing is impossible for God, so who is to say that the amazing story of St Winifred is not true too?”

    Kathleen, here is an account of a 20th century miraculous healing involving St Pio of Pietrelcina which made me ask the same question. I’ve copied the relevant section here:

    “More astounding still may be the thoroughly-documented cure of a construction worker named Giovanni Savino, who was severely injured on February 15, 1949, in a dynamite mishap. When Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti, a physican, and Padre Raffaele, another Capuchin, and Father Dominic Meyer rushed to the injured man’s side, “all three men noted that among Savino’s numerous injuries, his right eye was gone entirely. They agreed that ‘the socket was empty,'” reports biographer Bernard Ruffin in Padre Pio: The True Story.

    Other doctors confirmed that the eye was completely annihilated and the other one badly damaged.

    It looked like Savino was also going to be totally blind.

    For three days the worker lay on a hospital bed with his head and face bandaged. When a surgeon entered the room three days later, Savino reported that Padre Pio had visited him — something Savino recognized because he had detected the beautiful aroma so often reported around the priest.

    A week later, at about one a.m. on February 25, 1949, Savino felt a slap on the right side of his face — the side where the eye was completely gone.

    “I asked, ‘Who touched me?'” testified Savino. “There was nobody. Again I smelled the aroma of Padre Pio. It was beautiful.”

    When later the ophthalmologist — an atheist — came to examine the remaining eye, there was shock. “To their amazement,” writes Ruffin, “the doctors found that his shattered face was fully healed and covered with new skin. Savino, however, was most delighted at the fact that he could see. ‘I can see you!’ he said excitedly to the eye specialist.”

    And indeed, as is medically documented, the doctor saw to his “utter astonishment” that Savino had his right eye back. Somehow, the eye had materialized. (“Now I believe too,” exclaimed the doctor, “because of what my own hands have touched!”)

    As Ruffin notes, it’s one thing when diseases disappear; this is exciting. It’s tremendous to hear of diabetes or arthritis or even cancer leaving a person. “For a missing part of the body to be restored, however, is another matter,” noted the expert biographer.”



  35. mmvc says:

    Deacon John,
    I was struck by the strength of the Holy Father’s words when he said at this week’s general audience that:
    ” garbage is not just in the different streets of the world. There is also garbage in our consciences and in our souls…”
    A touch of austerity and asceticism would no doubt help us with the waste disposal!


  36. kathleen says:

    Mmvc @ 18:09:
    Yes, another truly awesome miracle! I hadn’t heard about it before.

    Interesting to hear the doctor’s words on verifying the miracle for himself, “Now I believe too, because of what my own hands have touched!”
    Yet some, even when the evidence of events defying all the laws of science stare them in the face, still refuse to believe!! Could it be that such belief would imply certain truths they would prefer not to have to admit to, do you think?

    Mmvc and Deacon John:
    Two fundamental Catholic reminders from our Holy Father – a touch of necessary austerity in our lives, and devotion to the Cross – many thanks!


  37. mmvc says:

    Yes, Kathleen, I do believe that admitting to and embracing the fullness of Catholic Truth is tough. The path is narrow and steep. Dying to self is a must. Demanding Catholic moral teaching, Catholic doctrine and even great personal and material sacrifices (as currently in the case of some Anglican clergy) are just some of the stumbling blocks.


  38. toadspittle says:

    Toad suspects that he shall regret the following screed, but feel he should try to explain why…

    ” …some, (people) even when the evidence of events defying all the laws of science stare them in the face, still refuse to believe!! “

    says Kathleen, and she has got it in one, in a way.

    Just as some Catholics (and, no doubt, Muslims and Jews and whatever) steadfastly believe certain things, not in spite of their being unbelievable, but because they are unbelievable, so others stubbornly refuse to believe things that appear to break the ‘laws of science’ – because they steadfastly believe that these laws are sacred, and should not, indeed cannot, be broken by anybody – let alone God; in fact, least of all by God.

    In the face of all the evidence suggesting that God treats his own laws with cavalier disregard from time to time, some people just refuse to believe it happens. They have such unyielding faith in the laws of science, or nature, if you prefer.

    They see it like this: It is as if God was playing chess with, say, Toad. For no reason, God suddenly moves a knight diagonally seven squares. “Hey, you can’t do that!” Toad shouts, “Yes I can, it’s my game and my board and my chess set and I made the rules and I can change them whenever I like,” says God.”
    “Well then, I will move my bishop straight down the board and take your knight,” says Toad. “You can’t do that,” says God, ” It’s against the rules.”

    Then Kathleen says,
    “Could it be that such belief would imply certain truths they would prefer not to have to admit to, do you think?”
    Yes. Assuming Kathleen is correct, we are living in a world where no law of science or nature can be relied on. Where God can throw out logic on a whim. Where water can boil at ten degrees centigrade. Where pigs can fly. Where the law of gravity can be repealed at any second.
    It seems positively indecent to some folk. I suppose the conclusion is, that if that’s the lawless, chaotic way God behaves, why should we bother about Him at all, let alone worship Him?

    One might also wonder if all this fevered talk of miracles does the Church more harm than good in the eyes of the rest of the world. If it does more harm, could miracles be the work of a mischievous imp?

    Hope this helps. Doubt it. (Someone on here, sorry, can’t remember who, has a young son who’s currently resisting religion. Wonder what he’d make of this ‘thread’?)


  39. bwr47 says:

    No reason for Toad to regret the screed, but it is a funny sort of logic: are you really saying “as God is above the laws of nature and physics, I won’t believe in him”? Most non-believers complain that God does not intervene enough!

    A believer says “as God has shown Himself to be above the laws of nature and physics, in many ways but especially in His own resurrection, that gives me a good starting point to say it may be worth looking into the case for God rather more closely.” We then go away and that case for God builds and builds until it becomes irrefutable.

    If God moved the pieces at random then the chess game would indeed be problematic and perhaps we would effectively have no free will at all. In reality, though, He does not move the pieces very often at all and when He does so, it is invariably for a greater spiritual good as well as being a sign of His love.

    It does seem to fly in the face of reason to refuse to believe because God sometimes reveals His greatness (however inconvenient we may find it). If there is even one miracle that defies explanation (and in reality there are thousands) then surely that forces us to re-examine our core beliefs.

    To end with a crass analogy: we know what we expect to find when we open a tin of beans. Millions of people open the cans every day and we know what they find inside. It is essential for normal living that we can rely on the contents. But suppose that on one occasion we open the tin and it contains no beans but a golden bracelet; we then have to accept that there is a greater force, somebody operating beyond our sphere of knowledge, who is actually able to break the law that rightly operates on every other occasion. He can break the law because he is actually in charge of the whole factory. We don’t say “I won’t believe that there is a person controlling the contents; to do that would create a lawless and chaotic environment and I could never contemplate eating beans again.” We say “OK, this forces me to remember that beans don’t just appear it tins automatically. Someone is putting them there and that person could actually change the system in any way he liked.”


  40. golden chersonnese says:

    I sometimes think, bwr47, that our Toad would much prefer the New Heaven and Earth promised to us at the End of Days, but would like to have it now. Ours is an impatient Toad despite the permanently impassive and sceptical expression on his face. Personally, I think that this could all be a result of reading too much Hardy at too tender an age (“pitching on a blighted star” he called life on earth, I think).

    Toad, however, rightly sees that for most of the world’s people our present life is difficult and, for a good number, full of pain, sorrow or pointlessness and scarcely worth living. Much of that is, of course, the result of how we, not God, have made it.

    Things like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and perhaps many diseases cannot be blamed on mankind but seem to be built into the system, as Toads well know, being rather down-to-earth chaps.

    Not many with a Toad humour find it a comfort that some scientists claim that the causes of these things (tectonic plates, micro-organisms etc.) are in fact required for human life and most other life to exist at all. There would, for example, be not one Toad to complain if in fact earthquakes didn’t carry off some of his friends every now and again.

    Toads and their ilk seem to think that God should have designed the universe better so that these things did not bring us misery. This again takes us back to their desire for the promised New Heaven and Earth and when do they want it? NOW.

    Back to healing miracles. Surely they can be seen as flash-forwards to the New Heaven and Earth which all of us, not just Toads, are impatient for. They are always seen as signs of God’s love and mercy and of the wholeness and happiness of life that He desires for us for all eternity.

    A pretty good deal on the whole, but one should not assume too much about “oads”.

    What was that about chess?


  41. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad said:
    A chance to have a relaxing weekend laugh at the crazed ravings of a madman.
    Let’s just try cutting off his head, and seeing if it gets stuck back on!
    Not a prayer!

    Perhaps a St Winifred type re-attachment could be prayed for if any of us laughed our heads off?


  42. toadspittle says:

    “I sometimes think, bwr47, that our Toad would much prefer the New Heaven and Earth promised to us at the End of Days, but would like to have it now.”

    …and who wouldn’t? Golden Chersonnese, for one.

    “Toads and their ilk seem to think that God should have designed the universe better so that these things did not bring us misery.”

    Very true. Toad, and SuperToad Voltaire agree that all is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

    Not enough gnats, for one thing.

    Toad is prepared to accept a reasonable bit of misery, but surely things have gone too far over the last 50,000 years? The puny, unstable, disease-ridden, insane little planet is, and has always been, an utter shambles. Can anyone deny that? But apparently God loves it. No accounting for taste, I suppose.

    Golden is right about the chess, though. Life’s too short for it. Obviously a bad analogy. Sigh. Knocks over king. Resigns.

    But I do live in constant hope of finding a gold bracelet in a can of beans. That’s cock-eyed optimism for yer! Wouldn’t eat so many otherwise.

    Suppose I’d have to give it back – (the bracelet, that is, not the optimism) – and then go hungry, though.


  43. becky says:

    thank God that my confirmation name is WINIFRED.her story really marvels me


  44. winifred says:

    How can I get a prayer of Saint winifred


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s