There is a saint for Leap Year: he is St Oswald of Worcester, who died on 29th February 992. His family story was extraordinary, and full of some surprising ‘leaps’, all by itself.  It provides a tantalising glimpse of what happened to at least one of those pagan Viking warriors who settled in Anglo-Saxon Britain.

For Oswald’s great-uncle had come to England c 865, as part of the ‘Great Heathen Army’ of Viking invaders. But his son, Oswald’s uncle, Oda, forsook paganism, and not only converted to Christianity, but actually ended up as Archbishop of Canterbury.  From there, Oda was in a position to help his nephew, Oswald, which he did. 

Oda sent young Oswald to be educated at the abbey of Fleury, then a great centre of learning. There Oswald absorbed the Benedictine ideals which would guide his later life and work. Back in England, he became bishop of Worcester in 961, and with the support of King Edgar, eagerly joined in major reforms of the Anglo-Saxon church. In 972 Oswald was made Archbishop of York, and seems to have taken a great interest in renewing the church in the Danelaw. He founded Ramsey Abbey, which became one of the great Fenland monasteries. 

Oswald was popular as an archbishop, and always washed the feet of the poor every Lent. On 29th February 992 he had just completed this service at Worcester when he collapsed and died. In later years, Worcester adopted both him and Wulfstan to be its two chief saints: they flank the tomb of King John, which is before the high altar in the cathedral.

The next Leap Year is in 2024.

Source : Parish Pump

Photo : Catholic News Service