Most of the information we have about this Saint comes from the Venerable Bede who learned about him and his brother St. Cedd from the monks of the monastery of Lastingham,* which they founded. They evangelized the Kingdom of Mercia, which was new to the Faith, and the Kingdom of Essex, which had fallen away. Along with their brothers Caelin and Cynibil, they were early missionaries to the Angles. Of the four brothers, all were priests and two of them, Cedd and Chad, became bishops. Chad was a disciple of St. Aidan.
He was sent by King Oswiu to Kent to be consecrated bishop by the bishop of York. He was accompanied by future bishop of Ripon, priest Eadhead. However, when they reached Kent they discovered that Archbishop Deusdedit had died and no other archbishop had yet been appointed. In the face of this complication they decided to travel to the Kingdom of the West Saxons where Wine was the bishop and so Chad was consecrated with the assistance of two Celtic bishops. Unfortunately, Rome did not consider these two bishops to be canonical in view of the fact that Celts kept Easter at a different date than the Roman church. This technicality became an issue when Bishop Theodore visited every district, consecrating new bishops and correcting any errors he found. He informed Chad in no uncertain terms that his consecration by those Celtic bishops was irregular, whereupon Chad, in his humility, volunteered to resign. However, Theodore completed what was lacked in Chad’s consecration, making it canonical.
Bede writes that Chad kept the church in purity and piety and practiced humility and temperance. He studied, visited all around the area preaching the Gospel on foot as did the Apostles, preferring not to travel on horseback.
Chad was the third bishop of Mercia, following Trumhere and Jaruman. He himself was followed by Winfrith. When Jaruman died, Theodore called Chad out of retirement in Lastingham to fill the position rather than consecrating a new bishop. Theodore insisted that Chad ride a horse for long distances, which Chad was loathe to do. Theodore placed him in the saddle with his own hands! King Wulfhere donated 50 hides of land for a monastery at Adbaruae (“At the Grove”) in the province of Lindsey. His episcopal seat was at Lichfield.
At Lichfield, Chad built for himself a more private oratory near the church where he could read and pray with seven or eight of the brothers. He ruled as bishop of Mercia for two and a half years and died of the plague at Lichfield, where he was buried. Before his death, one of the brothers, Monk Owine by name, heard sweet, joyful singing coming from the sky to the roof of the oratory. After an hour, the singing ascended from the oratory back to the sky. After this, Chad sent Owine to go fetch the other seven brothers. When all were assembled Chad exhorted the monks to live lives of virtue and peace and to follow the Rule he gave them. His death was at hand, he told them. “For the beloved guest who has been in the habit of visiting our brothers has deigned to come today to me also, to summon me from this world. So return to the church and tell the brother to commend my departure, the hour of which is uncertain, by fasting and prayers and good works.” After the seven departed, Monk Owine stayed behind to ask about the singing he had heard. Chad replied that he had heard angels and not to tell anyone of what he had heard until after Chad’s death. The angels said he would die in seven days and in seven days, after receiving Communion, he died on March 2. According to Bede his coffin was in the shape of a little house with an opening in the side allowing people to take out a little dust. It is said adding this dust to water and giving it to sick men or cattle will bring about a cure.
The following anecdote comes from Trumberht, a monk educated in his monastery and the one who taught Bede the Scriptures: If Chad was reading or doing any other thing, if a high wind arose he would at once invoke the mercy of the Lord and beg Him to have pity upon the human race. If the wind increased in violence he would shut his book, fall on his face, and devote himself more earnestly in prayer. If there was a serious storm, he would enter the church and pray until the storm passed. His explanation? “Have you not read, ‘The Lord also thundered in the heavens and the Highest gave His voice. Yea, He sent out His arrows and scattered them and he shot out lightnings and discomfited them?’ For the Lord moves the air, raise the winds, hurls the lightnings, and thunders forth from heaven so as to rouse the inhabitants of the world to fear Him, to call them to remember the future judgment in order that he may scatter their pride and confound their boldness by bringing up their minds that dread time when He will come in the clouds in great power and majesty, to judge the living and the dead, while the heavens and the earth are aflame. And so’, said he, ‘we ought to respond to His heavenly warning with due fear and love; so that as often as He disturbs the sky and raises His hand as if about to strike, yet spares us still, we should implore His mercy, examining the innermost recesses of our hearts and purging out the dregs of our sins, and behave with such caution that we may never deserve to be struck down.”
*Lastingham, which may have been called Laestingau originally, is located in North Yorkshire on the southern edge of the North York Moors. The name first appears in history when King Ethelwald of Deira (651-c. 655) was encouraged by his chaplain, Chad’s brother Caelin, to found a monastery there for the king’s own burial. According to Bede, Chad’s brothers Cedd and Cynibil consecrated the wooden church which had been built by Cynibil. Cedd was the monastery’s first abbot until he died of the plague in 644. Bede reports that the party of monks that came to mourn him all died of the plague as well, save one. A stone church was built at Lastingham between 664 and 732. Cedd’s relics were placed at the right-hand side of the altar. Chad took his brother’s place as abbot.