Lives of the English Saints – Saint Walburga

Saint WalburgeIt is one of the wonderful things of wonder-working Christianity, that it seizes on all tempers and dispositions of mankind, and moulds them to its holy purposes, and thus it brings all their infinite variety into its own perfect unity; like some vast Gothic Minster, which, while it is building, refuses not to take into its composition rude and fretted stones, as well as squared and smooth, and when complete blends them all into a beautiful harmonious whole, deriving not the least part of its grand effect from those jutting cornices and irregular friezes, which in their detail are so grotesque and strange. Christianity rejects none; if only there is a willing heart, surrendering itself such as it is, worthless, or weak, or care-eaten and cankered, of such it can still make use in furthering its great design.

It would seem at first sight impossible, that weak children, and delicate womer, whom the world has never, so to speak, cauterized into hardness, could have strength enough to embrace the pains of the cross; they will surely turn away from the first taste of bitterness in the cup it offers, or faint at the sight of the fearful shadows which fall upon its path. Yet the All-Merciful teaches the shorn lamb to abide the blast; and this very weakness when supported by Divine love becomes most strong. Christianity knows no difference of sex; in it there is “neither male nor female;” because there is but one character to which all must conform, one likeness which all must imitate; and from it man must learn all the gentleness and tenderness of woman, and woman must learn all the strength and severity of man. Many holy saints have persevered to the end, who have brought an innocent light-hearted gaiety, and weakness like the bending reed, to learn its sorrows. They find it hard, like Saint Thomas, to believe its awful realities, and scarcely guess beforehand the pain they must go through; yet when it is understood, they receive it readily and with all their heart.

Saint Walburga was the daughter of Richard, the Saxon king and Saint of the eighth century, and sister of the two holy brothers Winibald and Willibald. She lived as a child in the wealthy house of the king her father, and was probably his youngest child. When she was yet little, her father and brothers went away from England on pilgrimage to Italy and the Holy Land, and she was left behind. It is of her probably that her father speaks when he complained of leaving “children not yet grown up,” and pleaded this with his son as a reason for not deserting his home. However, this objection was overruled, and they departed. The story does not say whether the mother was left with the orphan child; but Queen Winna the mother of “Winibald and Willibald was dead, and if Saint Walburga had a mother living, she was the daughter of a second wife, which the narrative seems to suppose.

She was taken to Wimburn Minster in Dorsetshire. It had been built only two or three years before, by Cuthberga, sister of King Ina, in the year 718. Into it she herself retired with her sister Queenberga, and there, together with other noble young ladies, amongst whom were Saint Lioba and Thecla, they formed a convent of holy nuns under the Abbess Tetta. The two princesses were Walburga’s relatives; and Lioba and Thecla were cousins, or at least connexions, for Winna was a relative of King Ina. But there is no need to seek for earthly ties to shew how the orphan girl would find the convent a home; Christianity makes new fathers and mothers and friends and relatives to all its destitute children, and the Church is a home into which those who flee find a refuge for ever. There, as in some charmed palace of enchantment, the storms which rage in the world without, and scatter its unhappy children like driven leaves, blow no more, the rain and the sharp sleet of earthly sorrowing and care descend no more, and they repose in the arms of an everlasting embrace from which they shall never be torn.

Saint Walburga stayed at Wimburn amongst these royal and saintly Saxon maidens for many peaceful years. Here she was instructed in the learning of those days, which consisted chiefly of knowledge of the Latin language, the speech of the Church through all the world, in which she afterwards wrote the lives of her brothers, and of the ladies’ work of those days, spinning and weaving clothes and vestments, which then were simple and without embroidery; in such tasks she was a laborious work-woman. But the chief employment of the sisterhood was singing praise to God and prayer. Religion was the object of education, not mere knowledge independent of it; and purity and innocence of heart were the ornaments with which they sought to be adorned. To this heavenly school Saint Walburga brought a gracious disposition. The temper she inherited from her Saxon father was that of a free and noble maiden, with a full and affectionate heart overflowing with all sympathy and kindness, and bright and sunny like clear waters of a running stream. Such characters need to be taken out of the world, lest it spoil them: they excite a trembling interest while exposed to it, for fear that its rough breath touch them while they seem like a floating bubble quivering, and expanding, and ready every moment to burst and melt away. They have their peculiar dangers; they meet with much indulgence, and they are apt to become fond of it; they are unconscious of evil, and therefore likely to fall into it unawares. Their goodness of heart has prevented their needing much control; and hence they are apt to become willful; and not being accustomed to reproof, they become impatient of rebuke, and are afflicted at the little crosses and disappointments of life. She brought also with her the bold and ready temper which characterized her brother Willibald, and which often accompanies women, and those who are inexperienced in evil: such persons are forward to encounter peril, when the more circumspect draw back; like Saint Thomas when he cried, ” Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

A convent life supplied all the requisites for the judicious management of such a character, and giving it strength and consistency. The regidarity it enjoins, the privations it puts upon the self-indulgent, and continual superintendence, are means calculated to bring about the patient resignation and habitual self-control which is needed to form a well-regulated mind. She continued subject to its discipline twenty-eight years, like a prolonged happy childhood, until she was called forth to new duties in a distant land. This long schooling was preparing her for missionary labours. “Grown people,” says the great philosopher, “ought to be schooled.” It is a mistake to think that our education is completed when we have come to a stated period of life; the bands of discipline draw tighter round us as we advance in years, and moral schooling can never cease, until the will is subdued. So false is the modern theory, which would burst the bands in sunder before a single passion has been curbed, and proposes as a serious problem, “how soon it would be advantageous for the youthful mind to cast away the trammels of teaching and control, and launch forth on its own judgment, and with unshackled will to seek for truth, and become free.”

Her father died at Lucca before the first year of his pilgrimage was over. Her brother Willibald went on to Palestine, and, after wandering seven years, came back to Italy, and stayed at the monastery of Monte Casino, but never returned to England. Winibald came back again, after a lapse of years, to visit his home. He was of a feeble and sickly constitution, and could not accompany his brother to the Holy Land, so he stayed at Rome: perhaps it was partly to breathe again the fresh air of England that he came home. It was natural that Walburga should become most attached to him, because she had seen most of him; he alone of that beloved company whom she could remember leaving her behind in childhood had returned again, and his sickliness made him more dear to her; and thus, through after-life, while she admired her brother Willibald, she clung with affectionate fondness to Winibald.

Their uncle Winfrid was meanwhile engaged in his great work of evangelizing Germany. He found no companions in labour suit him so well as his Anglo-Saxon countrymen; and many of these flocked to him, stirred by the fame of the great things he was doing, like soldiers who gather to the standard of some great adventurous general. In those days men felt a deep thrilling interest, a sublime romance, in going out to rescue from the captivity of Satan a nation that sat under his dark control, because then the reality of their deliverance into light out of darkness, was a thing more vividly felt; the effects of holiness and faith were more visible, and by consequence the effects of unholiness and unbelief more deplorably evident. In order to be interested in religion men must really understand what a deliverance it is, and that to recover captives out of the great enemy’s hand is a more glorious and heart-stirring crusade than was ever undertaken against infidels or Saracens to recover the Holy Land. Illuminated men feel the privileges of Christianity, and to them the evil influence of Satanic power is horribly discernible, like the Egyptian darkness which could be felt; and the only way to express their keen perception of it is to say, that they see upon the countenances of the slaves of sin, the marks, and lineaments, and stamp of the evil one; and they smell with their nostrils the horrible fumes that arise from their vices and uncleansed heart, driving good angels from them in dismay and attracting and delighting devils. It is said of the holy Sturme, a disciple and companion of Winfrid, that in passing a horde of unconverted Germans as they were bathing and gambolling in a stream, he was so overpowered by the intolerable scent which arose from them, that he nearly fainted away. And no doubt such preternatural discernments are sometimes given to saints, that men may understand how exceedingly offensive a sinful man is in God’s sight. Men with their eyes thus opened, understood the inexpressible gift and value of Holy Baptism. They looked upon it as like the “milk-white root” that Ulysses bore in hand by the gift of heavenly Mercury to the cave of the sorceress Circe, and was himself shielded from the arts of hell, and restored from the shapes of filthy swine, his enchanted companions.

The great Winfrid or Boniface kept up correspondence with England; he wrote to the Primate, giving accounts of his proceedings, and he wrote to the good Bishop Daniel of Winchester, his friend and instructor, and received advice from him as to the best means of converting the heathen. He now wrote to the Abbess Tetta, to send him some of her maidens to establish convents in Germany. Winibald had gone to him after his visit home, and no doubt had told him much of the holy sisters of Wimburn and their life of sanctity. It was then well understood, that in order to influence minds of men, not things but persons are required: it is personal character and holiness that alone is able to bend the wills and draw after it the affections of others. After such, men throng and follow, like superior beings descended upon earth, for it is stronger and higher characters that always influence the weaker, and give a tone to the age and people among whom they live. This is true as well of bold and daring spirits who influence mankind for evil; but there is this vast difference, good men attract others by admiration of superior goodness, bad men by the admiration of superior power. For this reason Saint Boniface wished to have as many as he could of his countrymen and countrywomen, as being well instructed in the ways of religion; for England was then “the Isle of Saints.” These he made a nucleus of ecclesiastical bodies through the newly converted and imperfectly taught heathen land; these penetrated into the wildernesses and fastnesses of the forests, everywhere establishing central bodies round which whatever was good might gather, and ramify again; the churches of these little colleges of monks were called “minsters,” or monasteries, and hence the term which is properly applied to central churches of districts having collegiate bodies attached to them.

The letters of Saint Boniface came to Wimburn in the year 748, requesting by name Walburga, as well as Thecla and Lioba, to come to him and her brother in Germany. Walburga, on hearing the message, went to her oratory to pray. She was filled with emotion at the thought of leaving the peaceful Wimburn in which she had lived since her childhood nearly thirty years. Affectionate persons cling to places and people they have been used to, and a home they have loved, like a limpet to its accustomed rock; it is like parting with life to be taken away: but again, she would go to meet her brothers, and especially the meek and sickly Winibald; and the request came from her uncle, so much honoured and revered, that it would seem a crime not to comply with his desire. However, she simply prayed that the Divine will might be done concerning her, not that her own will either to stay or go should be done. And she received an answer to her prayers, for God revealed to her, that all had happened by appointment, and that she must not doubt to accept the invitation. Upon this she joyously and readily made preparations for departure. The convent, which was very large, had means for supplying the expenses of the travel. Part of the lands and wealth of Walburga’s father had been no doubt given to it when he left his principality; and King Ina’s endowments of Abingdon and Glastonbury shew that he would not be less generous to the abbey in which his sisters lived retired from the world. Thirty companions undertook to accompany her, a number which seems large for a convent to send away, but there were five hundred maids at Wimburn. Perhaps among these, and it is probable it was so, were Lioba and Thecla; and if so, the parting from Wimburn must have been made much easier to Walburga; for she took away with her the greatest treasure of the convent in these once her cousins, now her dear sisters. Lioba especially, from her sweetness of temper and perpetual joyousness, would be to her a delightful companion.

Having bid farewell to happy Wimburn, they set sail from England in a ship which had been procured. It sounds now like the act of very adventurous maidens to set forth thus in travel to a land far away; but the thing was then so usual that it would hardly have excited remark; and in Christian land, and not long before the days of Charlemagne, they would meet every where with chivalrous attention and respect. It is not however to be denied, that owing to the great number of young persons who then streamed abroad from England in pilgrimages to Italy, and elsewhere, as was to be expected in impulses which carry great multitudes, grievous scandals did occur. At first their voyage was calm; but when they got out to sea, a storm arose. The distress of these simple maids, who had lived so long in entire repose, may be well imagined. The sinking of the heart as the long interminable swell of the sea rises and falls; the roll and shiver of the vessel as it swims giddily over each successive wave and down again with a drunken reel into the deep trough which seems to swallow it: the distracted look of the tossing yards and flapping sails and ropes, which whistle to the wind like a madman’s streaming hair; the hungry look of the pitiless waters as they fling themselves up with the greedy spring of a lion at his prey; these to the inexperienced landsman form a scene and give sensations of misery and despair that overwhelm and overpower all energy of body and mind. The violence of the tempest increased, until the sailors themselves thought all was lost, and began to throw overboard the tackling to lighten the vessel. But no created thing can shake the confidence of the soul that has faith in God the maker of them all, and the floods cannot drown love. Walburga prayed to God her Saviour, and rising from prayer full of holy power bade the elements be still. The winds and waters heard the voice of God speaking in his servant, and obeyed, and there succeeded a miraculous calm, as if the peace and gentleness that dwelt in her bosom had spread itself like oil over the sea. Shortly they came to land, and put into port overjoyed, giving thanks to God, and regarding Walburga with veneration.

She and her companions traveled on to Germany, where they arrived without further adventure; though it took them long time, and without doubt to such tender wanderers cost vast fatigue. They found the Archbishop Boniface, and his suffragan bishop Willibald, Walburga’s brother, at Mayence. These received her with much joy, and listened with pleasure to the narrative, how Divine revelation had confirmed their call to her to leave Wimburn, and come abroad to them, and how Providence had protected them safe through the dangers of the way.

Her brother Winibald, she was told, was in Thuringia, with seven churches, or rather seven monastic houses, under his superintendence. To him she desired to go, and establish her convent near him, and under his rule. It was then common for separate bodies of monks and nuns to be under one head. There were monks at Wimburn, besides her maidens, under the Abbess Tetta. The Benedictine rule was at that time very universally followed; and Saint Boniface, Willibald, and Winibald were all Benedictines^. Having obtained leave, she went to Winibald, and was received by him, and settled for a time in a convent beside him there. Thecla and Lioba were sent to other parts of Germany, then called Allemaine, to be abbesses, and establish separate sisterhoods.

It strikes us with astonishment to contemplate the vast ecclesiastical force, as it may be called, which was in this manner brought into play. The whole country was thrown under an organized system, which was perpetually diverging, like rays of light, further and further into the recesses of the land, yet centralized in abbots and bishops of districts, and finally in the vigorous archbishop himself, at Mayence, who had planned the scheme and brought it to bear. The state of the people demanded energetic exertions. Christianity had spread rapidly among them, and therefore imperfectly. The vast idea cannot be caught in a moment, and requires, like some great shadow or outline, teaching and development to realize it to individuals; the eye which has been accustomed to prison darkness must be allowed gradually and slowly to dilate, before it can bear the day and distinguish objects. Much therefore was to be supplied or corrected, and there were great chasms to be filled. The wild superstitions of that imaginative people clung still to them, which had grown up into a thousand fanciful shapes, engendered among the deep and gloomy forests with which the land from ancient times had been overspread. Besides all this, there were grievous heresies to be combated, which had already sprung up, in which the German brain has since been so fruitful.

The Abbot Winibald, by exhortation and rebuke and unwearied patience, had brought his district of seven churches into a great state of order, from which they long after benefited. He also made visits into further parts, and Bavaria, notwithstanding the feebleness of his sickly frame; he continually came to Mayence to consult with Boniface and his brother Willibald, bishop of Aichstadt, and was often obliged to spend much time there.

But this life did not suit Winibald; he was past fifty, and his body enfeebled by long infirmity, and he longed for greater retirement; he was naturally studious and contemplative, and his conversation with his uncle and brother turned much on the mysteries of religion. A hermit’s cell and life were the things for which he longed; his diet was already hermit’s fare, for he ate but little from his infirmity, and drank no wine except for medicine. He wished therefore to flee away from the rich wine country bordering the Rhine, in which his monks were exposed to dangers from an easy and luxurious life, and seek some spot more inland, where they might live more like anchorites and have greater need of manual labour for their support. Full of these desires, he went for advice to Willibald his brother at his “mynster” of Aichstadt. This was situated, as the name signifies, amongst the forests of oak that grow around the feeders of the Danube. By the advice of his brother he purchased a spot that lay retired among the hills for the site of his future monastery.

This place of retreat was called “Heidenheim,” perhaps from its secrecy, and afterwards retained the name; it was a deep vale among lofty mountains in the wilds of Sualaveldia, or Suevia, watered by gushing mountain streams, and at that time densely covered with forest trees, which stood in their primaeval and untouched magnificence: the sight of this solitary and majestic scene struck a note which responded to the chords Avhich were ringing in the heart of the contemplative Winibald. He was one of those who bear ever in their thoughts the notes of the “everlasting chime,” which to those who have ears to hear falls in unison with the calm melancholy sound of hidden waters running in steep places, and the winds sweeping over the heads of the great forest trees and the bristling sides of the mountains; they realize the magic tale of the huge AEolian harp which hung from tower to tower, catching on its strings every sweet and solemn sound that wakes at the passing feet of the wandering wind. It is natural for such souls to seek for solitude, that, like the nightingale, they may sing alone.

“Here,” he exclaimed, “shall be the place of my rest!” and indeed it was destined to be the place of his everlasting repose; for he had sought it, as the stricken deer seeks the thicket, to die there. Here he brought his sister Walburga, and built a church and double monastery for his monks and nuns. This was done about the year 752. Immediately they began to clear a space in the wood for cultivation; and Winibald laboured himself with axe in hand with his younger monks, like Elisha in the days of old, and toiled at cutting away underwood, and breaking up the waste uncultivated ground. The work itself was great, and they were hindered besides by the opposition of the natives, who, though the place was purchased, probably looked with a jealous eye upon these improvements introduced into their ancient hunting-grounds, and considered the old oak-trees of the silent vale the hallowed haunt of elves and fairies, and looked down upon their cutting down as a desecration. Time elapsed, and the monks and nuns of Heidenheim became settled, the natives became reconciled, and converts received into the monastery, which swelled in numbers; the face of the country improved by the arts of cultivation which were learned from the monks’ example and assistance, and the neighbouring barons gave of their lands freely to its support; and the abbot and abbess were heads of a flourishing society, in what had been a wilderness.

Meanwhile Winibald’s health daily declined, until at length he was unable to move from his bed and chamber which was made for him into a little chapel, and fitted with an altar, on which every day that he was able, he celebrated mass, until his quiet and gentle spirit parted happily in the year 701, eight or nine years since he had come to the retreat of Heidenheim. Willibald his brother came and buried him there.

Walburga mourned deeply the loss of her brother. He had been all in all to her; and her affectionate heart had found in him an object in which all the feelings which ties of kindred awaken had centred. He had been to her the pledge of the family from which she had so early parted. His long sickness had still more endeared him to her, and his musing melancholy turn of mind, like a .strain of solemn music, awakened all her tenderness. Her grief was a constant inward mourning, like what poets call the dove’s for her mate; and thus his death transfused, as it were, into her mind that deep sorrow which perhaps is necessary to be mingled with joyousness to complete the training of the human soul for future happiness. Milton errs when he sets the two at war; in truth they harmonize; the ecstasies of joy and melancholy unite as it were at their confines. She had spent a long life in unbroken smiles, and now she learned to steep her mind in tears. The rue and the thyme do not give their scent so well, until they are bruised.

Her dying brother commended to her care, not only the maidens, but the monks of Heidenheim. So that, like the holy Tetta at Wimburn, she was now abbess and mother of both. Thus her duties and cares increased mth her sorrows, and these she fulfilled with all the kindness and watchfulness of a mother, except perhaps, that from her great gentleness and meekness, she brought herself sometimes into neglect from those about her, and, as we may believe of the holy Paul, into contempt. “One evening,” says her history, “after vespers were over, she stayed alone to pray in the church of the monastery which her brother had built, and remained there until it was late, and the darkness closed in. She rose from her prayers to return to her cell, and asked the sexton of the church, whose name was Goumerand, to light her to it. The churlish monk refused.” (Perhaps he was tired with waiting for her so long to finish her prayers, and was of a sour disagreeable temper.) “The abbess meekly retired to her cell without a light, patiently taking the affront, and the time of the evening meal having passed, remained there without having supped. In the night the sisters were roused by a bright supernatural light streaming from Walburga’s cell, and lighting up all their chambers. Startled and terrified, they watched the illumination, which continued until the stroke of the bell for matins, when they gathered to the chamber of the holy Walburga, and with wonder and fear told her what they had seen. She bursting into tears, ” thanked God for the heavenly visitation which had been vouchsafed to her, and ascribed it solely to the prayers and merits of her brother Winibald, through whom she said the contempt put on her had thus been turned to honour.”

Another incident which is thus related, shews Walburga’s great meekness and humility, and the miraculous gifts with which she was endowed the former of which was so great in her, that indeed, according to the judgment of Saint Paul, it is more excellent, and more to be wondered at than the latter. “Late of an evening, while she yet mourned for her brother Winibald, she went out unattended and unobserved from the convent, moved by Divine impulse. She wandered to some distance to the house of a neighbouring baron, whose daughter lay dying. There she stood at the door, appearing like a wandering beggar, not venturing through meekness to pass within or present herself. The baron was a huntsman of the forest, and his wolf-hounds,” which had probably been kept from the chase, “hungry and fierce, gathered round the door of the hall about Walburga. Seeing her standing there, and in danger as he supposed of being torn down by them, the rough huntsman asked angrily, who she was, and what she wanted there. The abbess replied, that he need not fear; the dogs would not touch Walburga; that He who had brought her safe there, would take her again safe home, and that from Him she was come to be a physician to his house, if ho had faith to believe in Him the Great Physician. The baron, on hearing her name, started hastily from his seat in the hall, and, asking why so noble a lady and a servant of God stood without his door, prayed her to enter, and led her in with much respect. She said she was not come without a cause; and, having been waited on with great attention, at the time for retiring to rest she said she would pass the night in his daughter’s chamber. Thither she was led; the girl lay expiring, the death-chill was already upon her, and she was sobbing convulsively in the last struggle. The father groaned and burst into tears; the heart-broken mother hung over her child in agony; and the domestics prepared to make mourning. Walburga knelt and prayed, and continued all night in prayer, and God restored the soul of the maiden, and in the morning she arose in perfect health. The parents, full of gratitude, and astonished at the miracle, tremblingly offered her rich presents, but she refusing them, returned on foot to the monastery. The more that she received these signs of heavenly favour, so much the more she humiliated and dealt hardly with herself.”

Little more remains to be told of her life. She lived sixteen years after the death of Winibald, and wrote his life, as well as an account of her brother Willibald’s travels in Palestine, which she wrote down from his own mouth at Heidenheim. It is disputed whether these are really her compositions, or the work of one of her nuns: but there is internal evidence to shew that the writing is hers; and a comparison of the style with the life of Saint Boniface, written by Willibald, will give strong evidence that they are the productions of a brother and sister: for though from different hands, they bear strong resemblances to each other in the turn of thought and expressions, which may be especially marked in the prefaces. The Latin of these pieces, though it would excite the classical critic’s smile, yet has its own beauties; it is very expressive of feeling, and quaint and simple in descriptions; the words, so to speak, seem to try to imitate things. They would give no mean idea of her education, or of the education of those days; in fact, there is evidence that some of her companions at Wimburn were very learned and accomplished women. Latterly Walburga laboured much with her distaff; and at such tasks as spinning and weaving she has been said already to have been a great work-woman. Her chief characteristic in her declining years was the maternal kindness and tender-heartedness, into which sorrow and time tempered her formerly buoyant and happy mind, so that in some points of character she has been compared witli the blessed Mary. At length, to the great grief of the sisterhood and all her children in the Faith, over whom she had exercised such gentle rule, the holy abbess died, about the year 776. Her brother Willibald came to Heidenheim, and took her sacred body, and laid it by the side of her much-loved brother Winibald.

About sixty years afterwards, when Otgar, the sixth in succession, was bishop of Aichstadt, the monastery of Heidenheim was in a decayed and neglected condition, and while some repairs were going on, the tomb of Saint Walburga was trodden on and desecrated by the work-people. In the night the saint appeared in a vision to Otgar, and asked him why he had dishonoured the sepulchre in which her body lay, expecting the Day of the Resurrection? “Be assured,” said the vision, “that you shall have a sign that you have not dealt well with me, nor with the house of God.” In the morning, a monk named Wenifred came hastily from Heidenheim, bringing news that the whole northern wall of the building, which was next day to have been roofed in, had fallen with a crash, in the middle of the night, flat to the ground. The bishop, seeing the threat of the vision completed, called his clergy together, visited and repaired the church, anointed it afresh with holy chrism, as having been desecrated, and after a time he went thither in solemn procession, with ringing of bells, and chantings, accompanied by the Archpriest Wilton, and Archpriest Adding, and Omman, and Liubula, the abbess of the neighbouring convent of Monheim, and opening the grave with the chant of joy, raised the sacred relics, and carried them with tears of gladness to Aichstadt. Erchanbold, seventh in succession, succeeded Otgar. In his time, Liubula, the abbess of Monheim mentioned above, besought a portion of the relics of Walburga, consigning, on that condition, her abbey to the bishops of Aichstadt. Accordingly the tomb in which they had been laid by Otgar was opened, and the bones were found pure and clean, and moistened with a holy oil or dew, which no impurity would touch or soil. The priests lifting a portion with all reverence, carried it on a bier in holy procession to Monheim; as they approached to a town called Mulheim, which had been a residence of Saint Boniface, an epileptic boy met the bier, and it was laid on him, and he recovered. “Immediately,” says Willihard of Aichstadt, “there gushed forth in the same place, a smell so great and marvelous sweet, that the senses of those who preceded, and those who followed, and of those who bore the bier, could hardly endure to bear it.” And other miracles ensued. Amongst these was the cure of the Abbess Liubula, or as it would now be pronounced, “Lovely.” She was sleeping out of the monastery for three nights, (according to the law of Suevia, which required this form in consigning property away, of which she was making over the rights to the bishop of Aichstadt,) being ill of the gout in the feet, when, as she slept, an ancient cleric with snowy hair seemed to say to her, “Liubula, why sleep you? rise and go to the church.” She answered, “Why shall I go to church, when the matin bell has not yet sounded? nor can I go myself, except they come and carry me.” “Arise quickly,” he replied, “and go, for Saint Willibald is come to see how you have laid his sister, along with a host of the heavenly company.” Immediately she rose, and went quickly to the church, which she entered perfectly restored, and gave thanks to God and the holy virgin Walburga. She is said to have been canonized by Pope Adrian II, about the year 870, after the translation by Otgar to Aichstadt, and her name received into the catalogue of saints.

A vast number of other cures are recorded before the close of the same century, and the shrine of Saint Walburga became famous through all that country, and pilgrimages were made frequently to it. Special cures seem to have been wrought on those who had fallen into disease through an easy, self-indulgent course of life, into which the good-hearted merriment of Germans and English is apt to be degraded, and mercies shewn to careless, thoughtless, childish people, such as have the particular faults of a joyous and happy disposition. Over these Walburga herself had gained the victory; an innocent cheerfulness of temper, which thinks no evil, and has known little of it, is apt unconsciously to slide into great and even dangerous excesses, though such recover more quickly from them, as it were, without effort, because of their natural goodness of heart. The dangers of such a temper are like those that beset the path of the wandering fawn among the hills, when the mists veil the precipices along whose brink it is skipping, and the evening wolf is near within the thicket. They need to be awakened to perils that surround them, and to be cured of their silly willfulness.

A lively healthy person, of the name of Irchinbald, who had passed his life joyously, and was therefore probably in danger of becoming a sot or a glutton, was seized with such a loathing for all food, that for upwards of half a year he could swallow no nourishment except a little vegetable and yolk of egg with difficulty. When reduced from his former healthy and full habit to the last state of debility, his pulse scarcely beating, and skin scarcely covering his bones, he fell into a gentle sleep, and heard a voice bid him “go to Monheim, and ask there to drink of the consecrated wine that three nuns by the altar would give him, and he should recover through the prayers of Walburga.” He obeyed, and found it as he was told, and as soon as he had drunk, his appetite returned, his stomach no longer refused food, and he asked for bread, and ate. It is no sin to supply the natural appetite; but if a harmless desire is not watched, it easily runs out into some acquired unhealthy habit, which, like some foul excrescence, distorts and disfigures the soul. The fisherman in the Arabian tale let loose a little fume from a vessel he had drawn from the sea, but it grew and grew until the smoke filled the sky, and gathered into the form of a gigantic and terrible genie.

A maid-servant of a family, named Frideride, who was a very good and obedient servant, and beloved by her master and mistress, was seized with craving appetite which nothing could satisfy. She increased in size until she became a burden to herself, and became gouty or dropsical in the feet. Being very miserable she consulted with her friends, and petitioned her mistress that she might be allowed to visit Saint Walburga’s shrine. Permission being gladly given, she went, and her feet were cured, but the craving appetite continued until having confessed herself to Sister Theodilda, and bewailed with much shame and abhorrence her unnatural longing and gluttony, by her advice she received from Father Raimund some consecrated bread; after eating this she felt a loathing for food, which so continued, that for six weeks she received no food except the blessed Sacrament, her stomach rejecting all other food. Sister Theodilda, seeing her reduced to excessive thinness and weakness, begged her with much earnestness and reproof to drink some beer which she brought her, she complied, though unfilling, but it gushed immediately from her mouth and nostrils, and afterwards they pressed her no more; she continued to exist, a miracle, with scarcely any nourishment for three years, always blessing the holy maid Walburga, who had freed her from her loathsome obesity and longing: thus it is that the heavenly manna, suiting all tastes, can overcome all desire of earthly food.

In like manner a story was told, and believed, of a little girl whose chief fault was overfondness for play; how that whilst gaily amusing herself with a ball near the monastery, to her great affliction when she caught it from her companions she found it to stick to her hand as if glued. She ran in grief to pray at the shrine, and was freed from her fright by the bull loosening and coming away.

The same reproof was thrice repeated to a woman who continued her spinning on festival days, the distaff clung to her hand; at last being frightened out of her wilfulness she was freed from her punishment, and cured of her disobedience at Walburga’s tomb.

A person who came into the church to pray, thoughtlessly and irreverently kept his rough gauntlets or gloves upon his hands as he joined them in posture of prayer, and he felt them suddenly stript off him and gone; he was much terrified and ashamed of his negligence, and afterwards as he recounted what had happened to him they appeared lying before him, restored by a miracle. All these have the character of a gentle mother correcting the idleness and faults of careless and thoughtless children with tenderness.

But the most remarkable and lasting miracle attesting the holy Walburga’s sanctity, to which allusion has already been made, is that which reckons her among the saints who are called “Elseophori” or “unguentiferous,” becoming almost in a literal sense olive-trees in the courts of God. These are they from whose bones a holy oil or dew distills. That oil of charity and gentle mercy which graced them while alive, and fed in them the flame of universal love in their death, still permeates their bodily remains. Such are said to have been holy Nicholas, Bishop of Myra; Demetrius, Martyr of Thessalonica; John, by surname the Merciful; Lawrence the Martyr; Andrew the Apostle; and Matthew the blessed Evangelist. These all were distinguished by the attribute of mercy; they were men of Mercy, of whom it is said that “they are blessed;” and from their bowels flowed rivers of oil, fed by those dews which fall upon the head, and run down to the beard and skirts of the clothing, the dew of Hermon which falls upon the head of those who love the brethren.

Of this tender mercy Walburga’s heart was full, even to overflowing, while she lived; and in death, like a healing stream of compassion for mankind’s infirmities, it trickled from her bones. It has been already said, that when her remains were translated from Heidenheim they were beheld moist with dew and odoriferous. They were laid in an altar-tomb of marble stone at Aichstadt, and from it, year by year, at certain seasons, a fontanel distilled, flowing more freely at the time of the blessed sacrifice, which, drop by drop, fell into a silver shell placed to receive it. “You may see,” says the account, “the drops sometimes larger, sometimes less, like a hazel nut, or of the size of a pea, dropping into the silver bowl from beneath the stone-slab on which they hang. If the oil when carried away any whither is handled irreverently, or in any way disrespectfully treated, it evaporates away; it is therefore kept with great reverence, and stored in a holy place. If the vessel placed to receive it is not placed under directly, so as to catch it when it falls, the oil hangs in clustered drops, as if in a bunch, like hanging grapes, or honey in a comb, and refuses to run; nor will it fall into the phial except it be perfectly clean. When the state of Aichstadt “(says Philip the Bishop)” lay under an interdict the sacred fount ceased. This sentence was passed on account of heavy wrongs done to the bishops by the neighbouring barons and estates. It was stayed until the Church regained its rights; and then the bishop, barefoot, and without his full robes, having proclaimed a fast, went up to the church, and with all the people prayed the city might not be deprived of such a benefit: and upon the celebration of the mass the oil flowed abundantly. According to the same author, it was customary twice in the year, on Saint Mark’s day and on the Feast of the Translation of Saint Walburga, for the priests and clergy in procession, after the office, to taste of the holy oil as a remedy for soul and body; he himself attests to having received a bodily cure from it. Many others are recorded, one an interesting one of later times, when a citizen of Aichstadt, named Müller, recovered by use of it his eyesight, which was nearly gone: he too was a merciful man, for knowing himself the loss, he pitied much the blind, and commanded his wife and children that no blind person be ever suffered to leave his door without an alms.

The same flow of oil or dew is related of the blessed Catharine, of Saint Elizabeth Landgravine of Hesse, of Saint Euphemia of Byzantium, of Saint Agnes of Tuscany, women whose souls, like that of Walburga, were touched with true compassion; whose bosom, like hers, melted by divine love, was filled with the milk of human kindness, and was full of sympathy with men afflicted: for such is the effect of heavenly grace, that whereas the heart of man is naturally hard and dry, like the parched and stony rock of the arid wilderness, selfish in extreme, and refusing to succour others in their distress and weariness; yet when it is touched by the wand of Moses, that is, by the spear which opened the second Adam’s side, a rill of mercy flows forth in tenderness and love, and henceforth it feels as its own all the sorrows of mankind, and while joying with those that joy, it weeps with those that weep.