St. Canute, also called Knute or Canutus, succeeded his brother Harald, the seventh king of Denmark. The differences between the two brothers were like saint and sinner. Harald’s reputation for laziness and vice gained him the nickname "the Slothful." Fortunately, he only reigned for two years before his death and the throne went to Canute.
Canute began his reign by declaring war on the enemies of the state and bringing the seeds of Christian faith to those conquered provinces. Being a devout and humble Christian, Canute would, after each victory, prostate himself before the crucifix of our Lord and offer himself and his kingdom to the King of Kings. After peace was restored in the land, Canute decided to marry Eltha (sometimes referred to as Alice), the daughter of the Earl of Flanders. They had a son named Charles who grew to be so pious that he was called Charles the Good. Charles had a wonderful example of goodness in his father. Canute showed the greatest esteem for holy men and clergy and granted them many privileges and immunities. He was also good to the lowly and those in his service, always seeking to make them happy and lighten their burdens. He built churches and even gave his valuable crown to the church of Roschild in Zealand, his capital city. He fasted and prayed constantly.
His heavy taxes and disputes with the nobles led to a rebellion, however, that was led by his brother, Olaf, who wanted the kingdom for himself. Canute ended up having to flee to the Island of Funen. He, his brother Benedict and other loyal followers took refuge there in the church of St. Alban in Odnese. But the insurgents followed them, and on the 10th of July, 1086, as Canute knelt before the altar confessing his sins, a javelin thrown through a window ripped through his body and killed him. His brother Benedict and 17 other loyal followers were also slain.
After the death of Canute, his wicked brother Olaf took the throne, and for the eight years and three months that he reigned, the land was besieged by a horrible famine and many other calamities. Finally, his successor, Eric III, an honorable and devout man, restored piety and peace. He also sent proofs of miracles taking place at the tomb of Canute and obtained from the pope a declaration authorizing the veneration of St. Canute, the proto-martyr of Denmark.
Heavenly King, we pray that like St. Canute, we will be willing to offer up all that we have to You, that we may spend eternity in Your royal court in Heaven. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
Sts. Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum (270), Martyrs (parents and two sons)
St. Wulstan (1095), Bishop
image: Saint Knud the Holy, ca. 1500, detail from side altarpiece from Sankt Peders Church in Næstved, National Museum in Copenhagen / Orf3us / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
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