Cuthmann of Steyning v. Leoba

Sometimes Lent Madness includes well-known saints, sometimes lesser known ones. Today may be the latter for many people as Cuthmann of Steyning faces Leoba for a shot at the Saintly Sixteen. Which among these near contemporaries with ties to England will advance? Well, that's up to you.

Yesterday, Chief Seattle sailed past Botulph 80% to 20%.

Time to vote!

Cuthmann of Steyning

Church planting today is often a data-driven affair. Population growth is examined; demographics considered; community needs gathered and polled. But it’s God who ultimately gives the growth to any new church. Cuthmann of Steyning might argue that because God gives the growth, sometimes, it’s also possible to overthink things in choosing where to start a church.

According to legend, Cuthmann was born around 681 and became a shepherd in southern England. After his father’s death, he was the sole caretaker for his paralyzed mother. The pair fell on hard times; after exhausting all other ends, he felt compelled to go house-to-house begging for alms and assistance. But Cuthmann couldn’t leave his mother alone; he had to care for her, make sure she was safe and secure. So, he built a wheelbarrow in which he could place his beloved mother, using a rope tied to the handles and across his neck to help bear the load, so he could carry her as he went about seeking provision for their needs.

Setting out to the east, Cuthmann’s plan initially worked. They travelled some distance until the rope around the handles broke. Ever ingenious, Cuthmann crafted a new rope from willow branches and decided that when that rope broke, he would build a church on the spot. The rope broke near the village of Steyning in Sussex. According to legend, he prayed: “Father Almighty, you have brought my wanderings to an end; now enable me to begin this work. For who am I, Lord, that I should build a house to name? If I rely on myself, it will be of no avail, but it is you who will assist me. You have given me the desire to be a builder; make up for my lack of skill, and bring the work of building this holy house to its completion.”

First things first: Cuthmann built a hut to keep his mother safe. As the church neared completion, and he struggled to place a roof trestle into place, a stranger visited to help him fix it in place. When asked for his name, the stranger said that “I am he in whose name you are building this church.” The task complete, Cuthmann spent the remainder of his days in Steyning.

Without data, a plant team, or even building supplies, God inspired Cuthmann to plant a church. So who can say that the task of growth is impossible in our own day?

Collect for Cuthmann of Steyning
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Cuthmann to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

David Sibley


Leoba was born at the beginning of the eighth century, an unusual time during which women’s voices were actually welcomed in the church and flourished. Born to a noble family in Wessex, England, her mother had a dream that she would conceive a cherished child of Christ, and her child would serve the church faithfully and with great insight and wisdom. Her parents named her Leoba, meaning “beloved.”

Leoba’s parents placed her in the double monastery of Wimborne for formation and education. There, she studied scripture, languages, the writings of the ancient church fathers, and canon law. Over time, she eventually took vows as a nun. While at Wimborne, she and other nuns and monks attended lectures at a nearby religious house. At these lectures, she became aware of Boniface, a Benedictine monk and leading figure in the spread of Christianity to parts of Germany. Leoba wrote Boniface, inquiring as to whether they might exchange letters on matters relating to theology and the church. Boniface, knowing of her reputation as a wise and devout person, eagerly added Leoba to the number of people he regularly corresponded with about all things faith.

They became friends and colleagues, engaging in deep theological discussions. When Boniface decided to establish monasteries in Germany, he asked Leoba and some of her fellow Wimborne nuns to assist him, so in 748, Leoba traveled with other nuns to Germany. She eventually became the abbess of a convent in the Franconian town Tauberbischofsheim. Leoba’s ministry included not only forming and educating nuns, monks, and converts to Christianity but also serving as a trusted advisor to many bishops, kings, and queens. She was the only woman allowed in the monasteries in nearby Fulda, where she often advised bishops and monastic leaders. When Boniface left the region on his many mission trips, he left his monastic cowl with Leoba, indicating that in his absence, she was his delegate and embodied all his authority.

Boniface asked to have her body laid beside his when she died, “so we who with a like desire and devotion have served Christ here may side by side await the day of resurrection.” Leoba outlived Boniface by some 20 years, dying in September 782. She was originally buried in the same room as Boniface, and her relics were later translated to another church in Fulda.

Collect for Leoba
O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Leoba, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Laurie Brock


Cuthmann of Steyning: unknown. Original reproduction uploaded by Neddyseagoon (Transfered by Wikipeder), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Leoba: Kandschwar, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


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109 comments on “Cuthmann of Steyning v. Leoba”

  1. GRRRR. Because of difficulty getting vote to check, and my multiple taps to get it to “take”, I unintentionally voted for Cuthmann instead of Leoba. When I saw the “vote” tab underneath the recording of my vote and the current stats, I thought I had a chance to correct the error. However, that was not the case and I was informed my vote was not allowed. I didn’t try to vote twice, I promise. However, I would like to change my vote if possible.

  2. Leoba was amazing, but I have to vote for Cuthman. The image of him pulling his disabled mother, refusing to abandon her, while still heeding God's call won my heart.

  3. His story is at least mostly legend. Hers is at least mostly fact. That was all I needed today.

  4. Modernist bias I suppose, but I tend to vote for the better-documented candidate. Not sure of the value of strictly legendary saints whose legends include not-very-credible events.

    1. I understand you saying that but, in my spiritual community, we have several members who are carers for disabled loved ones and they find great hope and solidarity in the story of St Cuthmann. He matters and he makes the lives of people who are often invisible in our society better when they learn about him.

  5. Got to be Cuthmann for his devotion to his disabled mother, his ingenuity in crafting the first wheelchair as well as his Church building.

  6. Leoba ought to have a bigger lead than she has now (only 17 percentage points) as she and her sisters were a key part of Boniface's success in converting the Germans. Despite (or perhaps because of) Leoba and her sisters’ success, after her death more than one thousand years would pass before the Church of Rome sent out another female missionary.

  7. Such a difficult choice today! Female strength and educated wisdom, male tenderness and devoted caregiving. Both great blessings to the world, and underappreciated by society--may God send us rich fonts of both to lift up humanity.

  8. Leoba. Credit to Cuthmann for fulfilling his promise to God to build a church. If he's not the patron saint of general contractors, he should be. Also, the helper who showed up at a strategic time is intriguing.

  9. Not surprised the admirable Leoba is ahead, since many folks here practice ecclesiastical affirmative action and favor women in their voting...

    But my sisters, consider Cuthmann -- he was the uber-multitasker! By simultaneously caring tenderly for his mother and following his wild calling to build a church, he is such a role model for those of us (women especially) with full plates these days, juggling to be faithful to both family commitments and care and to the work God and our particular gifts call us to do in the Church and the world. For me his example resonates more than Leoba's monastic life and accomplishments.

    Besides, Cuthmann reminded me of the film Field of Dreams, in which a voice speaks to a farmer about building a ball park in the middle of his cornfield to honor and invoke the "saints" of baseball: "If you build it, they will come." Cuthmann, too, built his church, and the saints came: The Church of St. Andrew and St. Cuthmann in Steyning is alive, well, and lively!

    1. Please do not assume that Lent Madness voters tend to pick the female candidate in a male-female matchup. Not so.

      So far there have been six male-female matchups in 2023, Cuthmann v Leoba is the seventh. The score is three all. We've discussed this extensively in previous Lent Madness seasons and the results do not show a substantial bias for female nominees.

      Equality, yes. Voting for the woman just because she's a woman, no.

      Although personally I am more comfortable with someone voting for a candidate because of their gender than because "this candidate has the same name as my grandmother so how can I not vote for her?"

      1. Tessa, my impression may be more from reading the comments thread than from actual voting results! (Totally with you on votes based on a family or school name, etc., though ... maybe there should be a crooked halo award for the most frivolous/illogical reason for voting for a candidate!)

      2. I have read several comments that indicate some people always choose the female candidate. As to "frivolous" reasons: when it's a difficult choice, why not choose the saint with the same name as your grandmother, for example? I like reading about all the different reasons people make their decisions, be they serious or frivolous. 🙂

  10. In honor of all those I have befriended in my faith journey I voted for Leoba. The long theological discussions on retreats, the spiritual directors that have guided me, my 12 step sponsors who have walked with me, and the dear circle of friends that I pray, cry, and laugh with have meant the world to me. "Beloved" indeed.

  11. I don't usually vote for saints who appear to be legendary. However, Cuthmann's raw persistence spoke to me. Take the next step, and the next step after that, and the next step after that. "Do the next right thing", as the song says.

  12. I just watched "Emily," so I'm imagining Boniface and Leoba ensconced in a semi-ruined cottage on the moors, passionately engaged in theological discussion in German on a fresh pile of straw (who brought the fresh straw?), a discourse quickly translated into a new tongue as he pulls at her stays . . . wrong novel, I know. I'm sure it was more profitable for the religious houses to spread the relics around to attract pilgrims (and their donations), but it does seem petty not to let the two lie together for all eternity (their mortal remains at least). Since Cuthmann was in Sussex, on the English Channel, you'd think he could "plant" this little building conveniently near a hidden cove so he could care for his mother by receiving smuggled goods for a fee . . . wait, that's another novel. I was curious how a shepherd got carpentry skills, since that would allow him to earn more money than flicking a stick at farm animals all day. Not sure which of these stories I prefer; I must ponder.

  13. It’s a great day in Lent Madness - a pairing with two very worthy contenders who happen to be at opposite ends of the “servant” spectrum.
    I love Leoba! Her personality and devotion shine thru the admiration of Boniface and her biographer. But Cuthmann of Steyning…. Isn’t he exactly who a church planter might be? Devoted, trusting, full of proven grit? His love of God is utterly expressed in his love of his mother and neighbors.

  14. I voted for Cuthman for his faith and compassion for his mother and that Jesus visited him. Who am I to gainsay the Lord. Nonetheless, as my bracket goes so far, my vote will be the kiss of death for his chances. Knowing that, and though I wanted to vote for a woman, I feel that, in my heart of hearts, Cuthman’s example, someone without the privileges Leona had, touches me.

  15. I'm all for supporting the poor, especially someone who cares for their elderly parent. Been there. So I'm glad to know about Cuthmann. But a woman scholar? That's a soul sister for me. Leoba all the way!

  16. St. Leoba was forthright and wise
    So it’s hardly a source of surprise
    She had friends in the court
    Of King Pepin the Short:
    Born in Wessex, yet Frank to their eyes.

  17. What a dedicated son to carry & care for his mother & smart woman who educated & influenced others! Today is definitely a tie, both so worthy. I’m sure my son would take care of me if I’d let him, but the tiebreaker goes to the Lady. Leona fulfilled her mother’s wish & her life’s purpose!

  18. Cuthmann for me! I am a member and leader in a tiny church that has experienced time after time the miracle of God sending the very thing or person or resource we needed. We could have died as a church many years ago. Instead we are still alive and kicking. Thanks be to God!

  19. I will never not vote for Cuthmann, who is one of my favourite saints, and much beloved in my spiritual community, where we consider him to be chisel-jawed and shapely-calved. That aside, this is a choice between a woman of noble birth and privilege, who admittedly was a leader at a time when that wasn't an easy thing for a woman, and a man who was cast into poverty, who cared for his paralysed mother by taking her everywhere with him and providing for them both. He is a beacon of human decency, hope in times of despair, love of God, and advocacy for the disabled. Pah to the noble saints, hoorah for the shepherds!!

  20. I had a dream last night that I was back in a high-rise building I used to live in over a decade ago. While waiting for the elevator, an elderly woman in a wheelchair comes alongside me singing "Lead Me, Guide Me" by Doris Akers. I gave this completely random woman a hug and offer to push her chair. I joined in singing the hymn, and when we got on the elevator, so did the other passengers. I see definite parallels between the dream and the story of Cuthmann. Having those moments when you surrender completely and just do what Divine knowledge tells you resonate with me, so I vote for Cuthmann today.

  21. This choice wasn't a clear runoff. As with each battle, I do more research in order to make a decision. Saint Cuthmann of Steyning's devotion to his mother and God is miraculous. Yes, I am a woman and attended Catholic school but "The Boy With A Cart" got my vote!

  22. Well, Cuthmann certainly was good to his mother, and since today(March 9, feast of st. Frances of Rome!) would have beenher birthday, I was certainly tempted to go that route. BUT Leoba's story touched me more deeply, and so she gets my vote today.
    BUT a shout out to my mother (I assume up in Heaven!) and another shout out to St. Frances of Rome!

  23. I voted for Leoba in this since I think she has more sustainability in the long run but I do want to give props to the writer for Cuthman. Being a part of the country where churches are closing, it both soothed and excited to my missionary heart to read an emphasis on to build a church sight unseen after caring for invalid mother. Thank you for that!

  24. I'll go for the guy with his ma in a wheel barrow, building with the help of Christ. A self-starter if there was one.

  25. Seriously, once again, why should a nun be given credit i.e. votes, no less in contention, when doing the 'job',the work they signed up to do,?!? Cuthmann

  26. I've worshiped at the church in Steyning, the modern (17th C) version; and read the story.

  27. Beloved Leoba has my vote. I love the devoted partnership in ministry that she created with Boniface and that he was so supportive in promoting her authority. It doesn't matter where their bodies are in my opinion, they are forever united with all the saints circling and singing around the throne of God. Help us to be there with you, Leoba the beloved!

  28. I see some comments concerned about what I interpret as the historical truth of a saint such as Cuthmann of Steyning. I totally understand how that can influence your Lent Madness vote depending on what's important to you. And that's fine. However, I do want to invite readers to consider the question, even if a story isn't factually true, what truth is it trying to tell? And why has such a story persisted for hundreds years? I think those truths tell us something important about ourselves and our faith, and are worthy of contemplation.

    1. Thank you so much for saying this! I've been thinking the same thing as I read the comments.