ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF WESSEX
The only English ruler to be given the title “the great,” Alfred was famed for his courage, his intelligence, and for his devotion to the Church. Himself a man of considerable education, he gathered around him a group of scholars from England, Wales and the Continent and, with their help, translated into English important works of theology and history.
Born in 849 in Wantage, he was the youngest of five sons. Following the death of his father and then the short reigns of his brothers, at the age of 22 Alfred became king in 871, a time when the Danes had invaded and were conquering England. Alfred’s military abilities showed themselves in clever battle tactics, halted the invasion, and culminated in a decisive victory in 878, following which Alfred persuaded the Danish leader Guthrum to accept Holy Baptism.
For the next twenty-one years, Alfred sought to repair the damage the Viking invasions had inflicted on culture and learning, especially among the parish clergy. He founded monastic communities and worked tirelessly for the spiritual welfare of his kingdom. He also suffered from a painful and chronic illness most of his adult life. Before his death at the age of 50, he commented “He seemed to me to be a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.” His Feast Day is October 26.
A COLLECT FOR THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT
O Sovereign Lord, Thou didst bring your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.