In addition to being the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, today is also the memorial of Saint Osmund, a Norman nobleman and cleric who arrived on English shores with William the Conqueror. In 1070 Osmund was appointed Lord Chancellor of England and, eight years later, was consecrated as the second Bishop of Salisbury. It was during his episcopate, in 1092, that the first cathedral, at Old Sarum, was founded and consecrated. St Osmund was also one of the Chief Commissioners of the Domesday Book, and the progenitor of what became known as the Sarum Use.
‘Osmund was count of Seez in Normandy, and came over with William the Conqueror, by whom he was created earl of Dorset. His life in the world was that of a saint in all the difficult states of a courtier, soldier, and magistrate. Brompton tells us, that he was for some time Lord High Chancellor of England. But the favour of his prince, and the smiles of fortune had no charms to a heart which loved and valued only heavenly goods: and he who had long enjoyed the world as if he enjoyed it not, fled naked out of Egypt, carrying nothing of its desires or spirit with him into the sanctuary, and embracing an ecclesiastical state, he chose to become poor in the house of the Lord. His sanctity and great abilities were too well known for him to be allowed to enjoy long his beloved obscurity, and, in 1078, he was forced from his solitude, and consecrated bishop of Salisbury, where his predecessor Herman had just before fixed his see. Saint Osmund built the cathedral in honour of the Blessed Virgin, in 1087, placed therein thirty-six canons, and dedicated the same in 1092: and this fabric being burnt by lightning, he rebuilt it in 1099… Being in every thing zealous for the beauty of God’s house, he made many pious foundations, beautified several churches, and erected a noble library for the use of his church. Throughout his whole diocese he placed able and zealous pastors, and had about his person learned clergymen and monks. Many whom the Conqueror invited over from France, and advanced to the first dignities in the English church, both secular and regular, were for introducing the particular ecclesiastical rites and offices of the places from which they came: whence great confusion was occasioned in the abbey of Glastonbury, under Thurston, a Norman, from Caen, whom the king had nominated abbot there, and in other places. To remove this inconvenience, and to regulate so important a part of the divine service with the utmost decency, piety, and devotion, Saint Osmund compiled the Use, or Breviary, Missal and Ritual, since called of Sarum, for his church: wherein he ascertained all the rubrics which were before not sufficiently determinate, or where books were inconsistent with each other, as it often happened, while transcribers took the liberty of varying from their copies: he adjusted and settled the ceremonial of divine worship in points that were before left to the discretion of them that officiated, which created confusion and disagreement in the celebration of the divine office, though all churches agreed in the substance.
…Saint Osmund wrote the life of Saint Aldhelm, and disdained not, when he was bishop, to copy and bind books with his own hand. The saint, though zealous for the salvation of others, and for the public worship of God, was always solicitous, in the first place, for the sanctification of his own soul. Being perfectly dead to the world, he was totally a stranger to ambition and covetousness, and lived in continual war with the pleasures of the senses. His patience having been exercised, and his soul purified by a lingering sickness, he departed to God, whose glory alone he had sought on earth, on the night before the 4th of December, in 1099. He was buried in his cathedral; his venerable remains were afterwards translated into the new cathedral, and, in 1457, were deposited in the chapel of our Lady in that church. His sumptuous shrine was destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII. His bones remain still interred in the same chapel and are covered with a marble slab, on which is the inscription only of the year MXCIX. He was solemnly canonised by Calixtus III in 1456’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
O God, whose miracles of old we perceive to shine forth even in our time to the glory and praise of thy Name, and to the honour of thy holy Confessor and Bishop Saint Osmund: mercifully grant that we who keep his festival may by his prayers both glorify thee in this present time, and be deemed worthy to enjoy thee in the world to come; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon