Saint Wulfram of Sens

Saint Wulfram of Sens

Wulfram was born in the diocese of Meaux, at Mauraliacus, an insecurely identified place near Fontainebleau, probably Milly-la-Forêt, Essonne. He was the son of a certain Fulbert, a knight attached to the court of Dagobert I, king of the Franks.

He was educated at Clovis' court and showed a gift for academic learning. He took holy orders and seems to have intended a quiet life but was called to the court of Theodoric III (Thierry III) of Neustria. This seems to have propelled him into greater prominence since, in 692, he was elected Archbishop of Sens. There are various versions of the date for this, the earliest being in 682. However, by 693 he was in the post as he attended an assembly of bishops at Valenciennes.

In 695, he resigned the archbishopric in favor of Saint Amatus, who, it seems, he thought would be better at that sort of work, and retired to the Benedictine abbey called "Fontenelle". There are several places called Fontenelle, but this was probably at St-Wandrille, near Caudebec-en-Caux on the lower Seine, in the Diocese of Rouen. However, Johannes Madey places it at Fontenelle in the extreme north of the département of Aisne.

In Frisia, St. Wulfram converted the son of King Radbod and was allowed to preach. The custom was that people, including children, were sacrificed to the local gods having been selected by a form of lottery. Wulfram, having remonstrated with Radbod on the subject, was told that the king was unable to change the custom but Wulfram was invited to save them if he could. The saint then waded into the sea to save two children who had been tied to posts and left to drown as the tide rose.

According to the story, the turning point came with the rescue of a man, Ovon, who had been chosen by lot to be sacrificed by hanging. Wulfram begged King Radbod to stop the killing, but the people were outraged at the sacrilege proposed. In the end, they agreed that Wulfram's God could have a chance to save Ovon's life, and if he did, Wulfram and the God could have him. Ovon was hanged, and left for a couple of hours, while Wulfram prayed. When the Frisians decided to leave Ovon for dead, the rope broke, Ovon fell and was still alive. Ovon became Wulfram's slave, his follower, a monk, and then a priest at Fontenelle Abbey. The faith of the missionaries (and their power to work miracles) frightened and awed the people, who were baptized and turned away from paganism.

Even Radbod seemed ready for conversion, but just before his baptism, he asked where his ancestors were. Wulfram told him that idolaters went to Hell. Rather than be apart from his ancestors, he chose to stay as he was.

He retired to Fontenelle, where he died in 703. He was buried in St. Paul’s chapel in the abbey, but in 704, he was re-buried in the main church. The body was again moved in 1058, this time to the collegiate church of Our Lady in Abbeville, which was then re-dedicated in Wulfram’s name. The translation of his body to Abbeville is commemorated on 15 October.

At about this time or later, perhaps when his body was again moved, this time to Rouen, his arm was taken as a relic to Croyland Abbey, Lincolnshire. The interest in him there may have arisen from Ingulph, the abbot being a former monk of Fontenelle. Also, everyone concerned was a Benedictine. Ingulph, who died in 1109, was secretary to William I, who made him Abbot of Crowland in 1086.

A hagiographical account of his miracles was produced at the Abbey of Saint Wandrille before 1066. Among the miracles are two pertaining to childbirth and children. In one, Wulfram is credited with the miraculous delivery of a stillborn baby, the mother having commenced labor on 20 January (the feast day of Saint Sebastian). A week after Easter, prayers to Wulfram caused her belly to split open so the dead child could be delivered, after which the wound healed as if it had never been, leaving only a "token of the cut". In the other, Wulfram is credited with the safe passage of an accidentally swallowed clothespin, which left the body of a two-year-old boy after three days without having injured it: "Is it not miraculous how through all the twists of the boy's intestines, as if through fine small round tubes, the copper sharp object, now going up high, now going down low, could travel without getting stuck anywhere or causing wounds, and so at last through Nature's lower parts find a way out all in one piece?”.

Other Saints of the Day
1. Saint Anastasius XVI
2. Saint Benignus of Flay
3. Saint Daniel Ungrispach
4. Saint Clement of Ireland
5. Saint Martin of Braga

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