Bearing the Saint by Donna Farley (published by Conciliar Press in 2010) is an action-adventure tale for tweens and teens. Set in 800s England and based on both historical facts and a legend, the book tells of the journey undertaken by a Bishop, an Abbot & several monks, and the inhabitants of a small island, as they carry the coffin and relics of Saint Cuthbert to safety—evading the Vikings and other hostile groups. This group of people travelled together for seven years and we share the journey through the eyes of a teenager named Edmund.
Edmund is one of the Bishop’s runners, a kind of scout who runs ahead to see if there is danger on the path. He encounters many challenges and close calls in that role, as he meets Vikings, Angles, and Saxons, none of whom are eager to deal with a whole travelling village of hungry, displaced people and their Saint. Somehow, they manage to survive and their faith only grows in their struggles. The challenges of Edmund’s people are mirrored throughout the whole land, as different groups change; from being invaders and enemies, to uniting together–often through Christianity–to form England.
While reading, I kept looking up places, people, and events, and over and over I found historical truth, real locations, and ancient legends woven into this well written, fast paced story. The first chapter of Bearing the Saint can also be heard on Chrissi Hart’s podcast, Reading From Under the Grapevine on ancientfaith.com.
Donna Farley has also written a children’s book, The Ravens of Farne: a Tale of Saint Cuthbert which would be a great book to read before this one for those of us who are unfamiliar with this ancient English saint.