Echa of Crayke, Hermit and Monk
May 5 is the Feast of Saint Echa of Crayke, (Etha), Anglo-Saxon priest and monk-hermit at Crayke, near York, England.
“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.”
“In the Dark Ages, Crayke was home to Echa of Crayke, an eighth century Anglo-Saxon Saint, priest and monk-hermit, known for his holiness, healing and prophetic gifting. According to the York Annals, he died 767AD, and his feast day is 5 May. He is known from the Hagiography of the Secgan Manuscript, and the poem on the Saints of York by Saint Alcuin.”