Saint Godric of Finchale
Saint Godric of Finchale (c. 1065 – 21 May 1170) came from a poor but virtuous Norfolk family. He took up the life of a peddler, later becoming a merchant and sailor. It is said that he was owner and captain of the boat that took Baldwin I, the first king of Jerusalem, to Jaffa in the Holy Land. Saint Godric was described by his contemporary, the Benedictine monk Reginald of Durham, as “vigorous and strenuous in mind, whole of limb and strong in body”. He was of middle stature, broad-shouldered and deep-chested, with a long face and grey eyes “most clear and piercing”.
He spent many years at sea, trading and travelling, miraculously avoiding certain death several times. When staying at Lindisfarne, Saint Godric was greatly impressed by the holiness of the local Benedictine monks and by their account of the life of Saint Cuthbert. He then prayed fervently for the grace to imitate this great saint in detachment from worldly goods and in love of God. It is believed that at this time the Saint himself appeared to him. St Godric´s prayer was granted, and he took up the cross and made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, St Giles in France, and the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He would return to England in between his pilgrimages, living as a recluse in woods and caves. Around the turn of the century, Saint Godric was granted a hermitage at Finchale, where he lived for more than fifty years until his death. It is said that he gave wise counsel to men such as St Thomas Beckett and Pope Alexander III.
There are four recorded songs of Saint Godric’s: they are the oldest songs in English for which the original musical settings survive. He learnt the first song from Our Lady herself. In a vision, the Virgin Mary appeared to him together with two beautiful maidens dressed in shining white garments. They promised to come to his aid in times of need; then Our Lady taught Godric a song of consolation to overcome grief or temptation (“Saintë Marië Virginë”).
St Godric’s most famous song came to him through a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who told him to sing it whenever he was tempted, weary or in pain, and she would come to his aid:
‘Saint Mary, Virgin,
Mother of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
Receive, shield, help your Godric;
Received, bring him on high with you in God’s kingdom.
Saint Mary, bower of Christ,
Purest of maidens, flower of mothers,
Efface my sins, reign in my mind,
Bring me to joy with that same God.’
St Godric of Finchale, hermit (d. 1170)
Feast Day: May 21