The Church of England is made up of a rich variety of traditions. These traditions seek to emphasise different things about the nature of God and the relationship between God, the world and individuals. St Giles’ is in the Catholic tradition (sometimes described as ‘Anglo-Catholic’ or ‘High Church’) of the Church of England.
Anglo-Catholicism or followers of the Oxford Movement, as it was called in the 19th Century, sought to re-awaken the Church of England to its identity as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – its continuity with the ancient church, most seen in its teaching, sacraments and practice. The word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’ and refers to our receiving and handing on of the traditions of the ancient church.
As part of this tradition, St Giles’ places an emphasis on the importance of liturgy and worship intended to appeal to heart as well as head, to senses as well as to intellect. In a changing and evolving world we believe that this constant increases our understanding of the universe and human nature.
St Giles was probably born in Athens, Greece in around 640AD. When his parents both died, Giles sold all his belongings to help the poor. He became a worker of miracles and eventually journeyed across the sea to France where he lived as a hermit in a cave in the deep forests by the River Rhône. He later continued his journeying until finally, in the depth of a forest near Nimes, he found a hollow of a rock in a green glade by a stream, shaded by four oaks. Legend has it that his only companion was a gentle hind whose milk he drank to supplement his impoverished diet.
Some legends say that one day, after he had lived there for several years in meditation, a royal hunting party chased the hind into Giles’ cave. One hunter shot an arrow at it but an arrow pierced Giles in his hand or his arm as he held onto the deer to protect it. The king sent doctors to care for the Saint’s wound, and though Giles begged to be left alone, the king came often to see him.
It’s thought that St Giles died on September the 1st, 720. He is the patron saint of woodland, of lepers, beggars, those living with mental illness, cripples, and those struck by sudden misery and driven into solitude.