Continuing the series on monastic saints, compiled by Jason John Edwards, Obl.S.B.
[The image is of a statue on the west front of Salisbury Cathedral and identifies the subject as St. Odo, Bishop of Ramsbury rather than as Archbishop of Canterbury.]
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Archbishop of Canterbury, d. 2 June, 959 (not in 958; recent researches showing that he was living on 17 May, 959).
According to the nearly contemporary account of him in the anonymous “Life of St. Oswald’ (op. cit. inf.) his father, a Dane, did not strive to serve God, even endeavouring to hinder his son’s constant presence at the church. Later writers represent Odo’s parents as pagans and the boy himself becoming a Christian despite his father’s anger. Odo was adopted by Æthelhelm, a nobleman, who regarded him with paternal affection and educated him for the service of God. After his ordination he accompanied Æthelhelm to Rome and on the way cured him when he fell ill by blessing a cup of wine and causing him to drink therefrom. On his return, according to the same writer, he was made bishop of a city in the province of Wilton, so that he has been described as the Bishop of Wilton, his consecration being placed in 920. There is no evidence for this date, and if he was consecrated by Archbishop Wulfhelm, as is stated, it could not have been before 923.
There is a further difficulty as to his diocese, erroneously called Wilton. In 927 he was Bishop of Ramsbury, which being in Wiltshire might loosely be described as the Diocese of Wilton. But Eadmer states he was appointed Bishop of Sherborne, and there is an extant document (Cartm Saxonm 666) which lends some support to his statement. If it be true, he must have filled the See of Sherborne between Æthelbald and Sigehelm. As the latter was bishop in 925 this only allows two years for a possible episcopate of Odo.
At the court of Athelstan (925-940) he was highly esteemed, and the king chose him to accompany abroad his nephew Lewis, whom the Frankish nobles had recently elected as their king. In 937 he accompanied Athelstan to the battle of Brunanburh, where the incident occurred of his miraculous restoration, at a critical moment, of the king’s lost sword. The story, given by Eadmer, is not mentioned by the earlier anonymous writer. When Archbishop Wulfhelm died in 942, King Eadmund wished Odo to succeed, but he refused, because he was not a monk as previous archbishops had been.
Finally, he accepted the election, but only after he had obtained the Benedictine habit from the Abbey of Fleury. One of his first acts as archbishop was to repair his cathedral at Canterbury, and it is recorded that during the three years that the works were in progress, no storm of wind or rain made itself felt within the precincts. The constitutions which he published as archbishop (Mansi, “Concil”, XVIII; Migne, P.L., CXXXIII) relate to the immunities of the church (cap. i), the respective duties of secular princes, bishops, priests, clerics, monks (ii-vi), the prohibition of unlawful marriages, the preservation of concord, the practice of fasting and almsdeeds, and the payments of tithes (vii-x). A synodal letter to his sufragan bishops, and an introduction to the life of St. Wilfred, written by him, have also been preserved.
Throughout the reign of Eadred (946-955) he supported St. Dunstan, whom he consecrated as bishop of Worcester, prophetically hailing him as future Archbishop of Canterbury. On the death of Eadred he crowned Eadwig as king. Shortly after, the archbishop insisted on Eadwig dissolving his incestuous connection with Ælgifu and obtained her banishment.
In 959 during the reign of Eadgar, whom he had consecrated king, realizing the approach of death, he sent for his nephew, St. Oswald, afterwards Bishop of York, but died before his arrival. He was succeeded by the simoniacal Ælfsige who insulted his memory, and whose speedy death was regarded by the people as the judgment of God. The next archbishop, St. Dunstan, held St. Odo in special veneration, would never pass his tomb without stopping to pray there, and first gave him the title of “the Good”.
The story which represents Odo as having in early manhood followed the profession of arms is only found in later writers such as William of Malmesbury. Even if it true that Odo served Edward the Elder under arms, there is no reason to suppose, with the writer in the “Dictionary of National Biography”, that he did so after he became a cleric.
God bore witness to his sanctity by miracles during his life and after his death.