Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Edith, Royal and Religious

Saint Edith of WiltonArticle

Saint Edith was a Royal Princess of England. After her mother, Wolftrudis or Wilfrith, had renounced the crown, the court and the world, and had retired into a convent, Edith, although still very young, desired to follow her and take the veil. But she only obtained permission to remain until her education was finished. Her mother herself took charge of it, and brought her daughter up as a model of virtue. Edith, after the example of her mother, devoted herself to prayers, to reading devout books, to work, according to her station, and to mortification. Outwardly she was clothed in garments which befitted her rank, but under these she wore a rough penitential robe. It was her pleasure to serve others, especially the sick, and how frightful and tedious soever the malady was, she nursed those suffering from it with tender love and solicitude, as well by day as by night She would not be called princess, neither did she permit any marks of respect to her on account of her high birth. The king, her father, frequently sent her large sums of money, but she employed the greater part of it in comforting the sick and needy. Having thus spent several years in the convent, it became her greatest desire to join the number of the virgins who had consecrated themselves to God. Turning to God, she prayed that He might incline her father’s heart according to her wishes. Meanwhile she repeated her request so often to the king, that at last he gave his consent, and she received the veil from the hands of the Bishop in her father’s presence. Edith was inexpressibly happy, and once invested with the sacred habit, she hastened forward in the path of perfection. She conformed her life to the regulations of the convent, and never overstepped a single rule knowingly, so that in a short time she became a perfect example of virtue. It was the king’s wish that she should become Abbess, and all the religious of the convent desired to have so holy a superior; but Edith would rather submit to the will of others than be raised above them, and she preferred obeying to commanding. After the death of her father and her only brother, Edward, the nobility resolved to withdraw Edith from the convent and raise her to the throne. The deputation came to the convent and making Edith acquainted with the resolution, solicited her consent. The pious princess was horrified and solemnly declared that she neither would nor could give her consent, as she had consecrated her life to God, but that even if this were not the case, she would never exchange the eternal kingdom for an earthly and transitory one. The nobility, not satisfied with this answer, made known to her by a second deputation, that they would forcibly take her out of the convent, if she persisted in her refusal. Edith was not frightened by this menace. She placed her trust in God, who inspired her with such convincing arguments to defend and justify herself, that at last they disturbed her no more. Her joy on being allowed to continue her peaceful life was much greater than others of her sex would have evinced had they been raised to the royal throne.

She continued in her pious conduct, and endeavored to increase her good works, to glorify God and the Saints and to benefit mankind. Thus, she built a large church in honor of Saint Denis, at Wilton, and a hospital for the poor, and endowed both richly. This church was consecrated by the holy Bishop, Saint Dunstan, at her request. This holy prelate observed that Edith, during the ceremony of consecration, several times, made the sign of the cross with the thumb of her right hand on her forehead. When, after the ceremony, he held a devout discourse with her, he praised the frequent use of the sign of the holy cross, and while taking her hand, he said prophetically, pointing to her thumb, “This finger shall never corrupt.” At another time, when the holy Bishop was standing before the altar offering to the Almighty the unbloody sacrifice of Holy Mass, tears were seen streaming from his eyes. When asked why he had wept, the Saint replied, with a deep sigh: “Edith, the beloved of God, will soon be taken from us to her heavenly home. Forty-three days more, and this bright star shall be extinguished.” This prophecy was fulfilled; at the expiration of forty-three days Edith ended her holy life after a short sickness. God had revealed to her the time of her death: for, one day, when as usual, she visited the Church of Saint Denis, she said to her companions: “This shall soon be my resting-place.” From that time she daily visited this church, and it was there, while performing her prayers, that she was seized with her last illness. No sooner had Saint Dunstan been informed that she was sick, than he went and administered the Last Sacraments to her. After this she requested to be carried into the church, as she desired to end her life within its sacred walls. She was buried in the same church with great solemnities, Saint Dunstan performing the funeral service. She was only twenty-three years of age, but had arrived at the summit of perfection.

She appeared, arrayed in heavenly brightness, to her mother, thirty days after her death. Thirty years later, she appeared in the same glory to Saint Dunstan, and announced to him that it was the will of the Almighty, that he should raise her body and honor it with a magnificent tomb. She further told him that he would find reduced to dust all the parts of her body, which, before her conversion, had been misused in vanity, but the others, still incorrupt. The holy prelate went to Wilton, and on opening the coffin, found all as the Saint had told him. The whole body was perfect except the eyes, hands and feet; but the thumb of the right hand, with which she had so often made the sign of the cross, was also preserved. Saint Dunstan raised the holy body with due reverence, and laid it under a magnificent altar. The mother of Saint Edith, who was still living when this took place, was filled with inexpressible joy, on beholding the body of her holy child. Kissing it over and over again, she gave thanks to the Almighty that He had given her the grace to lead Edith from her childhood in the path of righteousness. God wrought many and great miracles on those who prayed to Him through the intercession of His faithful handmaid, Edith. This Saint is one of those infinitely happy ones who have kept their first innocence and purity inviolate; and this alone ought to be sufficient to make us highly esteem and venerate her.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Edith manifested a wonderful perseverance as well in preserving her virginity, as in her religious life. She allowed nothing to turn her from the resolution she had taken. You make many holy intentions to avoid this or that sin, to practice this or that virtue; but where is the perseverance to do what you intended? I know that you are a weak, frail human being. Satan, as well as men, endeavors to disturb you, and prevent you from keeping your resolutions. But was not Saint Edith also a weak human being like yourself? Did not men and evil spirits try to disturb her and prevent her from accomplishing her intentions? She, however, remained constant. Hence, the excuse of your frailty will be of no avail before God. But do you know what you ought to do in the knowledge of your feebleness? Pray as earnestly to the Almighty as Saint Edith; place entire trust in His assistance, and work with the grace which He will impart to you; and you too will remain constant. For God is willing to help any one, who while doing all in His power, asks for divine grace to be assisted where his own strength is insufficient. “The spirit helps our infirmity,” says Saint Paul. (Romans 8)

• The fact that Saint Edith’s eyes, hands and feet decayed, because she had used them in the service of vanity when she was still very young, while the entire remainder of her body was incorrupt, is a sign that God is displeased when we thus misuse our members. But how much more displeased must He be when they are employed in the service of sin and vice! And how often is this done! We misuse our eyes by fastening them upon sinful or dangerous objects. We misuse the feet when we repair to places where we know that we shall be in danger of sin. We misuse the hands in transgressions against the Commandments of God by sins, on account of which countless persons have been precipitated into hell, as out of hundreds and thousands who become habituated to them, hardly one, without a miracle of divine mercy, does true penance and thus escapes hell Examine your conscience today, and ascertain if you have not misused your eyes, hands and feet to offend the Majesty of God, and correct yourself if you are guilty. Rest assured that if you neglect this, those very members with, which you now transgress the Commandments of God, will one day suffer indescribable pain in hell. For, it is written: “By what things a man sins, by the same he is also tormented.” (Wisdom 11) Thus those members will suffer especial pains, which in this world are used to offend the Almighty. Woe, therefore, to your eyes, hands and feet, if you employ them to dishonor Him, who in His great mercy has bestowed them upon you. It will happen to them as happened to the tongue of the rich man, who begged for one drop of water to cool it, which clearly manifested that he suffered especially in that member of his body. And why this? “Because he had sinned more with his tongue, than with any other member of his body,” says Saint Cyprian.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Edith, Royal and Religious”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 May 2018. Web. 22 February 2019. <>