Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Lebwin, Patron of Daventer, Confessor
THIS saint was by birth an English Saxon, and in his own language was called Liafwin. From his infancy he was a child of grace, a lover of retirement, an enemy to the pleasures of the world, and much given to prayer, watching, the mortification of the senses, and to all works of mercy. By praying fervently for the divine wisdom he deserved to be abundantly replenished with it. And having once been at the expense of laying the foundation of solid virtue, which always costs dear to flesh and blood in the destruction of the old man, he saw the spiritual edifice rise in his heart with joy; yet always laboured to perfect it with fear and trembling. He was amiable and venerable to all: and something divine seemed to shine in his countenance. Being promoted to priests orders, that he might employ his talent for the salvation of souls, he went over into Lower Germany, where several apostolic missionaries were employed in planting the gospel. He addressed himself to St. Gregory, whom St. Boniface had appointed his vicar at Utrecht, for the administration of that diocess. This holy man received him with great joy, and sent him with Marcellin or Marchlem, who had been from his childhood a disciple of St. Willibrord, to carry the light of the gospel into the country which is now called Over-Yssel. St. Lebwin was received as an angel from heaven by a lady named Abachilde, and many being converted, the man of God built a chapel on the west bank of the river at Hiulpe, now called Wulpe, about a league from Daventer, about the year 772. But many shut their ears to the truth, from whom the saint had much to suffer; but he seemed to gather greater courage from persecutions, and feared no danger in so great a cause. The Saxons who inhabited the neighbouring country held a yearly assembly at Marklo, upon the river Weser, to deliberate on the public affairs of their nation. They were divided into three ranks or classes; the Edlinges or noblemen, the Frilinges or yeomen, and the servile tribe. Out of every rank twelve men were chosen from each village to meet at this great council. St. Lebwin repaired thither, and, clothed in his priestly ornaments, entered the assembly, holding a cross before his breast in his right hand, and having a book of the gospels under his other arm. Whilst the multitude were intent upon their superstitious sacrifices, with a countenance full of dignity and majesty, he cried out to them with a loud voice, saying: Hear me, all of you: listen to me, or rather to God who speaks to you by my mouth. Know that the Lord, the Maker of the heavens, the earth, and all things, is one only true God. He went on affirming that he came an ambassador from God, to make him known to them, foretelling that if they refused to hear his voice, they should be speedily destroyed by a prince, whom God in his indignation would raise up against them. Whilst he spoke, many of the Saxons ran to the hedges, plucked up stakes and sharpened them in order to murder him: but the saint, protected by God, passed through the midst of them, and escaped. Then an honourable person amongst them stood up, and said, they had often received with humanity and respect ambassadors from men; much more ought they to honour an ambassador from God, who will punish an affront offered to him. Whereupon it was agreed, that the messenger of God should be permitted to travel and preach where he pleased: of which liberty he made good use. But afterwards, when the Saxons waged war against Charlemagne, they persecuted the Christians; and a troop making an inroad as far as Daventer, burned the church which our saint had erected there. After their departure he rebuilt it, and, being denied the more compendious sacrifice of himself, finished his martyrdom by labours and austerities before the close of the eighth century: and was buried in his church at Daventer, where his relics have been famous for miracles. Bertulf, the twentieth bishop of Utrecht, founded there a collegiate church of canons, of which St. Lebwin is titular saint. See his life authentically written by Hucbald, monk of Elnon or St. Amands, in the reign of Charles the Bald; also St. Radbods, bishop of Utrecht, Eclogue in his praise, and Altfrid in the life of St. Ludger. Pagi, Crit. t. 3, p. 336. Mabill. Annal. Ben. t. 2, and Batavia Sacra, p. 39.