‘By despising the world for Christ, this saint became greater, even in the eyes of men, than royalty itself could have made her: but she was truly great only because the applause and veneration of this whole island was to her a most grievous persecution, the dangers of which alarmed her humble soul more than the threats of fire and sword could have done. Hilda was daughter of Hereric, nephew to St Edwin, king of the Northumbers; and she was baptised by St Paulinus, together with that prince, when she was but fourteen years old. The grace of this sacrament she always preserved without spot, and from the moment she became a member of the kingdom of God, the obligations and happiness of this great spiritual dignity took up all her thoughts, and engrossed her whole soul. The better to attend to them alone she left her friends and country, and went into the kingdom of the East Angles, where her cousin, the most religious king Annas, reigned. Her first design was to retire to Chelles, in France, where her sister, St Hereswide, served God: with her she passed one year, till, upon her death, St Aidan prevailed upon Hilda to return into Northumberland, where he settled her in a small nunnery upon the river Were, founded by the first Northumbrian nun, Heiu. After living there one year, she was made abbess of a numerous monastery at Heortea, or Heterslie, now Hartlepool, in the bishopric of Durham; and some years after called to found a great double monastery, the one of men and the other of women, at Streaneshalch, (that is, bay of the light-house,) afterwards called Prestby, from the number of priests that lived there, and at present Whitby, (or Whitebay,) in Yorkshire. All her monasteries were destroyed by the Danes, about two hundred and fifty years after her death; only this last was rebuilt in 1067, for Benedictine monks, and flourished till the suppression of religious houses. St Hilda, for her sanctity and her wisdom, in conducting souls to God, was most dear to St Aidan, and other holy prelates; and kings and princes frequently repaired to Streaneshalch to consult her in affairs of the greatest difficulty and importance. This holy abbess, who was eminent in all virtues, excelled particularly in prudence, and had a singular talent in reconciling differences, and in maintaining concord, being herself endowed with the spirit of charity, meekness, and peace’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Almighty and everlasting God, who didst endow thy Abbess Hilda with purity and strength: grant by her intercession; that we may subdue our souls and bodies to thy most holy will; 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