St. Canute, King of Denmark, Man of Virtue
By Jean M. Heimann
The saint of the day is St. Canute, the patron saint of Denmark. He was the illegitimate son of King Sweyn Estrithson of Denmark and the nephew of King Knud of England. He succeeded his older brother Harold to the throne of Denmark in the year 1080.
As the King of Denmark, he was known as Knud IV. He married Adela, sister of Count Roberts of Flanders. King Canute was gifted with wisdom, charity, and kindness; he was also an excellent athlete, an expert equestrian, and a great general.
At the onset of his reign, he led a war against the barbarians and his army defeated them. In the splendor of his success, kneeling at the foot of the altar, he surrendered himself and his kingdom to Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Through his kingdom, he spread the gospel message, constructed churches, and maintained missionaries. He became known as “Canute the Holy.”
Turmoil arose in his kingdom due to the laws he had made championing the Church and he fled to the Island of Fünen. Dissidents went to the church of Saint Alban where Canute, his brother, and seventeen of his followers were praying. While his enemies were still outside of the church, Canute confessed his sins at the foot of the altar, and received Holy Communion. Stretching out his arms before the altar, he zealously commended his soul to his Creator. In this position, he was struck by a spear, thrown through a window, and was murdered for Christ’s sake.
Canute was buried in St. Alban’s, renamed St. Canute’s Cathedral. Miracles were recorded at his tomb. He was canonized in 1101 by Pope Paschal II.
O God, Who, for the greater glory of Thy Church, wast pleased to adorn blessed Canute the king with the palm of martyrdom and with glorious miracles: mercifully grant that walking in the footsteps of him who followed our Lord in His sufferings, we may deserve to attain eternal joys.