Happy St. Dunstan’s Day! This is the day on the Church calendar when our patron saint is remembered and celebrated. I have to admit that many years ago when I was first interviewing to be the rector of St. Dunstan’s I had to go look up to see who this Dunstan guy was. He is not in the tier of “major” saints like Biblical characters Matthew, Mark, Ann, Elizabeth, or John. But for many centuries he was the most popular saint in England.
Dunstan was born in 909 and died in 988. He was the Abbot of Glastonbury, the Bishop of London, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was described as a “contemplative in action” — bringing the fruits of his monastic prayer life to the immediate concerns of Church and State. He sought better education of the clergy, the establishment of new monasteries, and a more carefully ordered liturgical worship.
The most interesting tidbits about Dunstan are apocryphal. He was a blacksmith, who fancifully tweaked the devil’s nose with hot tongs. The myth is remembered in this rhyme:
St. Dunstan, as the story goes, once pull'd the devil by the nose with red-hot tongs, which made him roar, that he was heard three miles or more.
Another story is that Dunstan was asked to reshoe the Devil’s cloven hoof. He nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s foot, causing the Devil great pain. Dunstan agreed to remove the shoe after the Devil promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. And so we now have the lucky horseshoe.
Dunstan was also known for casting bells. He is the patron saint of blacksmiths and metal workers. That’s the reason we have wrought iron candlesticks in honor of our patron saint. They were made by another blacksmith, Elmer Roush.
Here is a prayer for the day:
O God of truth and beauty, you richly endowed your bishop Dunstan with skill in music and the working of metals, and with gifts of administration and reforming zeal: Teach us, we pray, to see in you the source of all our talents, and move us to offer them for the adornment of worship and the advancement of true religion, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Thanks be to God for Dunstan, and for all the churches that serve God in his name.