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Monday, June 23, 2014

St. Ethelreda

Ordinary Time: June 23rd
Etheldreda was the daughter of Anna, King of East Anglia and the sister of Erconwald, Ethelburga, Sexburga and Withburga, all saints. Etheldreda was born in Exining, Suffolk, and was married at an early age to Tonbert, Prince of the Gyrwe, but they agreed to live in perfect chastity. As part of the marriage settlement, she received from her husband an estate called Ely.


Three years after her marriage, the Prince died, and Etheldreda retired from court and went to live in seclusion on the island of Ely, practicing penance and prayer. For reasons of State, she was married again to Egfried, the young son of King Oswiu of Northumbria, who was only 15-years-old. He agreed she should remain a virgin, but 12 years later, demanded his conjugal rights. She refused, saying that she had dedicated herself to God.

She asked the advice of St. Wilfrid, Bishop of Northumbria, who supported her claim and told her to go to a convent. With the consent of Egfried, she became a nun at Codingham Convent. Later, she returned to Ely and built a large double monastery there. She was Abbess of the convent for the rest of her life, and died there on June 23, 695.

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