Hild, or Hilda, a member of the royal house of Northumbria, was baptised into the Church of Christ at the age of thirteen by Paulinus (see October 10th). She lived within the royal court and remained unmarried, but as she grew older she became increasingly aware of a call to be a nun. At the age of 33 she decided to join a community in Gaul, but Aidan (see August 31st) persuaded her to stay in Northumbria. She became abbess of a double monastery (for men and women) at Hartlepool, seventy miles south of Lindisfarne. Here she established Irish practice and the teaching of Columbanus (see November 23rd). Later she moved twenty miles further south to become abbess of Whitby, where she created another double monastery which became an important centre of learning and the arts.
Wherever Hild was she always drew out the gifts of others and encouraged them to use them in the service of God and other people. She is especially remembered for encouraging Caedmon (see February 11th) to write songs and stories to help people learn the Scriptures. She also trained at least five men who later became bishops.
Hild also hosted the Synod of Whitby in 664, which settled differences between Celtic and Roman practice, particularly regarding the dating of Easter and the style of the monks’ tonsure. Hild naturally supported the Celtic side in the debate, and although the Synod established Roman practice for the whole of Britain and Ireland, Hild accepted its ruling graciously and acted as an intermediary and reconciler between the two sides.
Her death came after six years of suffering with a recurring fever. On her final morning she accepted the Last Sacrament and encouraged her nuns to maintain the peace of the Gospel before she died.
Teach me, loving Lord, to be an encourager of other people. Help me to bring peace wherever I go and to be a reconciler of those whose differences spoil their relationship. Keep me true to the Gospel and teach me to value learning, art and music for Your sake; in Jesus’ name. Amen.