Last of the Anglo-Saxon saints, Wulfstan was born in 1009 in Warwickshire, England to the local Thane. (A Thane is a lower part of the English nobility) Young, handsome and socially active, the one-day saint had at first no intention of joining the church. It was his father and mother’s transformation toward the end of their lives that swayed him down the path to sainthood. His parents swore away the life they had been living and instead retired to a sort of religious commune called a cloister; it was there the young Wulfstan saw a new way of life and the happiness it brought both his parents. Twenty-five years later he rose to become prior at the monastery of Worcester and later its bishop. He had turned his life around and was fond of taking care of the poor and preaching to them even after he became bishop, something that was frowned upon by other church officials. His feast day to the Catholics is the nineteenth of January
Although renowned as a church builder, Saint Wulfstan was quoted as saying after the grand cathedral at Worchester he had overseen construction of was completed: “The saintly men of olden times cared more to bring their flocks to God than to build fine churches. All we do is to raise piles of stones; for souls we care nothing.” Many have taken this to be a lamentation on how far removed the church had become from the very people they sought to help. At the time it was common for sinners to buy their repentance and monks stressed tithing heavily while contact with the common people became more removed.
His time among the church’s ruling class was nearly cut short by William of Normandy’s conquest of England. Among the Normans Saint Wulfstan was considered to be a country bumpkin, unattractive and was described by even the king as “a fool”. His difficulties among the court was brought on in part because of Wulfstan’s inability to speak the Norman’s native language of French. When Archbishop Lanfranc tried to oust him from his bishipric, Saint Wulfstan agreed that was indeed incompetent and placed his staff of office on the tomb of Edward the Confessor. No one, not even the Archbishop himself could move the staff. It was only when Wulfstan was returned to his position did he take up the staff again. This was seen as a miracle and quickly Wulfstan rose up to become Lanfranc’s friend and help him end the Irish slave trade by preaching and praying with the slavers every day. Saint Wulfstan died in 1095 while doing his daily ritual of washing the feet of poor men, at the age of eighty-six. Pope Innocent III canonized him on May 14, 1203.
(source: “The book of Saints”, by Rodney Castleden)