St. Pega

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


Feast: January 8

In 664, the great abbey of Peterborough was consecrated in the English kingdom of Mercia, the gift of King Wulfhere and his brother Ethelred to the Church. The consecration was attended by kings, nobles, bishops, and clergy; among them were Wilfrid of York, one of the great monastic founders of early England, and Archbishop Deusdedit of Canterbury. Peterborough became the center of a great religious renaissance in Mercia, with monks and solitaries entering the abbey or settling near its grounds.

St. Pega belonged to one of the great noble families of Mercia, her brother being St. Guthlac, who set up his hermitage in the Peterborough Fens. He had been a member of King Ethelred's army and at the age of twenty-four laid down his arms and became a monk at Repton. Later, he retired to his isolated island in the Fens, and not far away, on the edge of the Fens, in what is now Northamptonshire, his sister, Pega, built her hermitage, in imitation of her brother.

We know little of their family. They were of the Mercian nobility and close to the king, who later laid down his crown and himself became a monk. Women solitaries were rare in those days, and St. Pega seems to have had a grant from the king for her hermitage. Later a church would be built on the spot, named after her, Peakirk (Pega's church). Still later, during Norman times, the abbey of Croyland would be built on the site of her brother's hermitage. In 714, St. Guthlac died and Pega attended his funeral, making her journey down the Welland River.

After his death, Pega went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where she died in 719. Her relics were kept in a church in Rome, but the church is not known. Along with her brother, she is remembered as one of the early saints of the Mercian kingdom and part of the religious blossoming centered in the abbey of Peterborough in eighth-century England.

Thought for the Day: The solitary life seems strange in our time, but at one time woods and islands attracted whole generations of men and women drawn to solitude. Most were gracious friendly, and hospitable people who loved their families and their friends but felt drawn to seek God in solitude. Their passion for God drew them into places where they could be alone with Him. For all of us, solitude is a need, if not for a whole lifetime, at least from time to time, where we can be alone with God.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': "Do for others what you want them to do for you. This is the teaching of the laws of Moses in a nutshell."—Matthew 7:42

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.