Today, 5 May 2012, is the memorial of St Echa (or Etha) of Crayke, which is in the North Riding area of Yorkshire, England. Since St Echa lived in the eighth century, dying in the year 767, most details about his holy life have been lost, but the important ones have survived almost 1250 years.
Most of what we know about St Echa is contained in a poem written by Alcuin in Latin about the Bishops and Saints of York. Putting it into verse would have made it easier for people to learn and retell to others. The translated segment about St Echa goes like this…
“Then flourished Echa, venerable man, A holy anchorite in wilderness; A secret life he sought, and in chaste zeal Fled from all earthly honours, that, with God His King, be might find honours at heaven’s court; Devoutly led on earth an angel’s life, And seem’d as if with prophetic pow’r inspired.”
Other gleanings say that he was ordained a priest, and spent most of his life as a hermit. Whether he was attached to a monastic community at Crayke, or whether he only settled with the monks at Crayke when his health deteriorated, is not known.
For certain, St Echa must have been under a powerful call from God to live a life similar to those of the Desert Fathers, and similar to those of St Cuthbert and other early hermits of Lindisfarne. From time to time God continues to call people to this ‘vocation within a vocation’. Normally it is felt by those who have already consecrated their lives to Him in religious life. Sometimes that call to ‘come away and be with Me alone’ is of a short duration for a special intercessory or ‘preparation for ministry’ purpose, and sometimes it is a call to enter into that state of spiritual warrior permanently. St Charbel would be a good modern example of a contemporary hermit. Most long established religious orders have remote places or separate dwellings for those who wish to respond to that particular call of God.
How St Echa’s prophetic gifts were exercised we no longer know, but it would have taken St Echa courage to respond to them and a degree of engagement with society. Perhaps people sought him out and God gave him a gift similar to St Padre Pio’s of reading souls and giving specific guidance to individuals for their future. Perhaps God directed him to seek out others so as to transmit God’s message person to person.
We can look forward to finding out more about St Echa in heaven, yet in the meantime if you are needing specific guidance from God about a choice you need to make (eg which job offer to take, which subjects to choose, which aged care facility to choose) why not seek St Echa’s intercession?
Dear God, thank you for raising up this holy man, St Echa, to dedicate his entire life solely to you. Thank you for the 1245 years of eternity that he has already experienced in your presence, and for all the prayers you have answered in response to his intercession over those years. May St Echa’s prayers bring us all closer to You.
St Echa of Crayke, pray for us