Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Bilhildis, Abbess

statue of Saint Bilhild, date unknown, artist unknown; Erthaler Court, Mainz, Germany; photographed on 21 April 2011 by Symposiarch; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Abbess Saint Bilhildes died on the 27th of this month. She was born in Franconia in the year 625, at Hochheim, now called Veitshochheim, in honor of its holy patron, Saint Vitus. Her parents, Iberimus and Mathilda, were Christians, though paganism still prevailed in their country, and were near relations of King Dagobert I, who reigned at that period. When three years old Bilhildes was sent to Wurzburg to her aunt, Cunegundes, who instructed her in the Christian religion, and had her name inscribed among those who were to be baptized; but before the sacrament could be administered, the wild Huns invaded and devastated the country. The priests were banished or murdered, and the light of the faith was almost entirely extinguished. In this manner the baptism of Bilhildes was omitted, and afterwards entirely forgotten, but without any fault of hers, as she did not doubt that she had been baptized. Bilhildes returned to her parents when peace was restored to the land; and as she grew in years, so also did she grow in virtue and piety. She had a special hatred for impurity; hence she was solicitous that certain pagan dances, which at that period were in fashion, and gave occasion for many vices, should be interdicted by King Dagobert.

When in her sixteenth year, she became, by the command of her parents, the wife of Hettan, Duke of Franconia. Nothing could be more painful to her than this union; for Hettan was yet in the blindness of paganism. She consented, at last, in the hope hat she might draw Hettan to Christ, and that his example might convert the whole nation. Her sufferings, during the years of her marriage, cannot be imagined. She led a holy life; occupied many hours, day and night, in prayer; chastised her body with manifold penances, and offered all to the Almighty for the conversion of the duke, whom she also endeavored to persuade of the truth of Christianity, by kind but earnest words. But all was in vain, and hence she at last begged the Almighty to sever the ties that bound her to Hettan. This prayer was heard. Hettan, by royal command, was called to the field, and Bilhildes returned to her mother at Hochheim; but afterwards, fleeing from home, she went to her cousin Siegebert, at Mayence, where she lived unknown to the world.

Having received news of her husband’s death, she gave herself entirely to the service of God and to works of charity. With the nobles who visited her, she spoke of nothing but God and divine things; of the vanity of all temporal honors and joys; of eternal pain and eternal happiness. Add to this her own virtuous life, and it is easy to imagine how much good she did. But she aimed still higher, and resolved not only to consecrate her own person entirely to the service of the Almighty, but to give others an opportunity to do likewise. To this end she founded, out of her own means, a large convent, which, in our time, is called Old Munster. Into this house she retired, with several others who had resolved to quit the world. The holy life she led, her kindness to those in her charge, and the high perfection they attained under her guidance, cannot be told in few words. Some years later, while three of her religious, who, for their great virtues were universally esteemed, were saying their prayers, an Angel appeared to each, revealed to them that Bilhildes, their abbess, had neither been baptized nor confirmed, and bade them make this known to her. Although they at first hesitated to do so, as the vision might have been a delusion of Satan, they finally told Bilhildes what had been said to them. The pious abbess was at first unwilling to believe this revelation, as she knew that she had been born of pious Christian parents, who could not have neglected a thing of such vital importance. She, however, consulted the bishop on the subject; and he, in order to ascertain the truth, prescribed public prayers, as no other means was left him. He himself said Mass for this intention; and the Lord revealed to him, during the holy sacrifice, the same that the Angel had announced to the three religious. He therefore made immediate preparation for administering both sacraments to the Abbess, who received them with deep devotion, and was afterwards still more zealous in the practice of virtue. At length, God revealed to her that her end was approaching, and she prepared herself most carefully to leave this world. She allowed no worldly persons to visit her during the last few days of her life, saying: “I must now think only of God and the day of judgment.” She called all the religious of her convent to her side, on her last day, and exhorted them to persevere in the love of God, and in the strict observance of the rule of their Order. After this, she gave herself up to devotional exercises. At the ninth hour, on the 27th day of November, she cried out with a loud voice: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” and closed her eyes in death. The many miracles which were wrought through her intercession, after her death, proved to the world that she lives in the joys of the Blessed.

Practical Considerations

Saint Bilhildes had no reason to doubt that she had been baptized, and yet she had not received the holy Sacrament of baptism. God revealed it to her and she performed her obligations. Those who are born of good Catholic parents have generally no reason to doubt their baptism; nevertheless, no one has the infallible certainty that he has been rightly baptized. Although we have no reason to trouble ourselves on this account, yet it is very wise to secure ourselves by the baptism of desire. This consists in arousing in our hearts a most fervent love of God, or a perfect contrition for our sins, with the firm purpose of keeping the commandments of the Lord; and, at the same time, awakening in our hearts the desire to receive holy baptism, if we had not been baptized. We ought also sometimes, especially on the anniversary of our baptism, to renew the promises we made at that time to serve, not Satan, but God, and to keep His laws. In this manner, we may repair any fault that may have been committed at our baptism. Persons who were not born of Catholic parents, ought to inquire, when they are converted, about the manner in which baptism is administered in the place where they were born and christened; for, experience has taught that Protestants, either do not use natural water, or change the prescribed words, in which cases, baptism is certainly not valid. Should such persons find reason to doubt the validity of their baptism, they should consult a prudent confessor, who will generally recommend the repetition of baptism under condition. The example of Saint Bilhildes teaches us to pray frequently that God would give us knowledge of what we do not know, and what may yet be necessary for our salvation. “Make known unto me the way wherein I should walk. Teach me to do thy will.” (Psalm 142) “O Lord, make me know my end, that I may know what is wanting to me.” (Psalm 38)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Bilhildis, Abbess”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 19 January 2019. <>