Sick people, shoemakers and swans

What have sick children, sick adults, shoemakers and swans got in common? Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln is seen by some as patron saint of all these. Images of him often include his pet swan who was said to be grief-stricken by his death. 

I don't really go for the idea of 'patron saints'. It's never occurred to me to invoke St Hugh's aid for swans in trouble, not even for the strangulated swan of Buckinghamshire's emblems. (Sorry, it's really a royal swan with a royal chain round its neck.) But then I'm a Protestant. All the same I think Hugh is worth commemorating today, even though he died in 1200. Hugh is buried in Lincoln Cathedral, England. His funeral was attended by King John of England (who helped carry his coffin) and the King of Scotland as well as archbishops and bishops. He had earned huge respect.

During his time as Bishop he spearheaded many reforms and was not afraid to stand up against the most powerful in the land, including the Kings Henry II, Richard 1 and John, especially where issues of justice were concerned. For example, he not only protested against unjust forest laws but excommunicated the king's chief forester. He courageously attempted to protect Jewish people who were numerous in Lincoln and were persecuted during Richard 1's reign. Leprosy was common in England at the time and Hugh is said to have cared with his own hands for those affected. 

You can read a very short Lincolnshire note about him here or a fuller Catholic Encyclopedia biographical article

Here's the Church of England collect for today:

O God,
who endowed your servant Hugh
with a wise and cheerful boldness
and taught him to commend to earthly rulers
   the discipline of a holy life:
give us grace like him to be bold in the service of the gospel,
putting our confidence in Christ alone,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Photo (Creative Commons) 'Mute Swan Cob, River Nidder, Salisbury' by Brian Robert Marshall: