St. Thorfinn of Hamar – 8 January
Continuing the series on patron saints of our oblates. Today is the feast day of St. Thorfinn of Hamar, patron of Fr. William Thorfinn Brenna, Obl.S.B. Name-day blessings to you, Father!
Saint Thorfinn of Hamar (died 1285) was a Norwegian monk, priest, and Bishop of Hamar, who lived a quiet and dedicated life to the Lord. It was not until after the death of this holy man—50 years after his death to be precise—that his sanctity was first recognized. During construction and renovation of the church in which he was buried at Ter Doest, Belgium (a photo of the abbey is the featured photo of this post), it became clear that the Lord held Saint Thorfinn in high esteem—his body exuded the scent of holiness.
The abbot felt drawn to discover more about Saint Thorfinn, of which there was little recorded in the monastery’s records. Speaking with the oldest remaining monk, Father Walter de Muda, the abbot learned that Thorfinn had been an exceptionally devoted brother—good, patient, generous, and firm in his confrontation of evil. In fact, Father Walter had written a poem about St. Thorfinn—written on fragile parchment—which had been placed in the tomb with Thorfinn.
The abbot searched for the poem, finding it in pristine condition in the tomb, not having suffered the ravages of time. Taking this as a sign that the Lord wished Thorfinn to be remembered and honored, Father Walter was asked to record all he could remember about the holy man who had lived his life quietly. The monks—and soon others who heard of this discovery—began praying at Thorfinn’s tomb, and numerous miracles began occurring at his intercession!
(Ruins of Hamar Cathedral)
The details that Father Walter remembered were few, but comprise what we know about Saint Thorfinn today. Thorfinn had been born in Norway, and had possibly become a Cistercian monk at the abbey of Taurtra. Ordained a priest, records indicate that he served in the cathedral in that city for some time. During this time, Thorfinn was confronted with the choice that many had to make—allegiance to the king of Norway (King Eric) or to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Years before, Thorfinn had been witness to the important Norwegian Agreement of Tonsberg, in which King Magnus VI freed the Church from governmental control. However, upon ascending to the throne, King Eric of Norway rescinded the agreement, and exiled those who supported it. Thorfinn, now Bishop of Hamar, was among those who remained loyal to the Church, rather than the king.
Exiled, Saint Thorfinn traveled to Belgium, surviving a difficult journey and shipwreck. There, he went to live at the Cistercian abbey of Ter Doest in Flanders. While at the abbey, he impressed the monks with his inner fortitude and good character. Prior to his death, he divided his possessions among charitable groups. Saint Thorfinn died as quietly as he had lived, going in peace to rest with the Lord.
In our world today, we focus our attention on accomplishments and status. Those who have money, power, and fame are generally the individuals we emulate or admire. Saint Thorfinn reminds us that the Lord does not judge us by our accomplishments, but rather by our character and our hearts. Saint Thorfinn may have lived a quiet life, but it was one rich in love for the Lord, and service to his fellow man. While he did not attract much attention on earth, he did in Heaven, earning him the title of saint.