Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Maxilinda, Virgin and Martyr

Article

Saint Maxilinda was born at Cambrai, in the Netherlands. Her parents were not less rich in temporal goods than edifying in their conduct. Maxilinda showed from her earliest childhood, no inclination to those things which other children enjoy. Her pleasure consisted in locking herself in her room and passing the time in praying, working, and reading devout books. Her manners were pleasant and kind, but at the same time modest and earnest. Her conduct in society, where she appeared only at the command of her parents, was so guarded, that all admired her, and were edified. It was generally admitted that, in the whole country, no one could be compared with her either in natural gifts, or in virtue and piety. Her hand was, therefore, eagerly sought by many of the young nobles; but her parents, knowing that she would never marry, firmly rejected all suitors. One of them, named Harduin, a youth of very noble and rich parentage, by dint of prayers and promises, succeeded in winning the favor of Maxilinda’s parents, so that, at last, they gave him their consent, without her knowledge. When Maxilinda was apprised of what had been done, she was so much distressed, that she could scarcely utter a word. Having recovered from the first shock, she asked a day for consideration, and going into her room, passed the whole night in prayer, fervently begging the Almighty, graciously to preserve her virginal chastity, which she had consecrated to Him. God accepted her prayer mingled with tears, and sent an Angel to assure her that her purity should remain unspotted, provided only that she would be firm and trust in Him. On the following day, Maxilinda told her parents, in simple words, that she would neither be married to Harduin, nor to any other, since, from her childhood, she had united herself, by a vow of chastity, with a much nobler and richer bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding this declaration, Harduin, with the permission of her parents, appointed a day on which the wedding should take place. The day came and with it came Harduin, accompanied by a great number of his friends, to celebrate the nuptials. Maxilinda’s father used all his powers to overcome her opposition. He at first spoke kindly, then more earnestly, entreating her not to dishonor him before so many persons. Seeing that all his entreaties availed nothing, he dragged her forcibly to the place where Harduin and his friends were waiting for her. Having arrived there, she turned fearlessly to her parents and her friends, saying: “With the help of the Lord, to whom I have consecrated myself, Harduin shall never call me his bride, even Should he come upon me with a drawn sword.” The friends, who had come to witness . the ceremony, dispersed at these words; but Harduin, foaming with rage, ran wildly to and fro, and at last left the house. Maxilinda went into her room, and prostrating herself before the Crucifix, thanked the Almighty for having thus protected her when danger was at its height. Fearing, however, that other storms were in store for her, she gave herself more fervently than ever to the practice of good works, to deserve the continued protection of God for the future. ‘Not long afterwards, Maxilinda’s parents went to a banquet, and left their daughter, who never went to such entertainments, at home, where she gave herself up to prayer. Harduin, having ascertained that she was alone, went with some of his servants to the house, and searched all the rooms, until he came to the one where the chaste virgin was praying. He forced the door open, and sank upon his knees before her, begging her, with tears in his eyes, to grant his prayer. Maxilinda remained firm, saying that she would a thousand times rather die than lose her virginity. After this, he began to change his manner, and even menaced her with death, if she persisted in refusing him. The chaste virgin was not to be frightened, but cried aloud: “I mind neither you nor your threats; you will never be able to prevent me from fulfilling the vow I have made to God. You may kill my body, but you have no power over my soul.” Having said this, she tore herself away from him and fled. Harduin, like one possessed, ran after her, seized her and strangled her, or, as others say, pierced her with his sword. Hardly had the chaste virgin breathed her last, when God punished the wicked murderer with total blindness. Horrified at the darkness which suddenly surrounded him, he cried to his servants for help; but they, fearing that God would punish them also, had run away. Meanwhile the parents of the holy martyr came home, and found their beloved daughter dead, while Harduin wept bitter tears over the horrible crime he had committed in his blind rage. The feelings of the parents at this sight need not be described. Maxilinda’s holy body was buried, with great magnificence, after the whole event had become public. The entire clergy and a large concourse of people accompanied it to the neighboring town, where it was laid to rest in the church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The bishop of Cambrai transported it, three years later, to the place where the holy virgin had so heroically ended her life. Harduin who had wept, day and night, for his former wickedness, was led by his servants to meet the holy relics, and sinking down before them, he publicly confessed his crime, begged the Saint’s pardon, and prayed that his sight might be restored through her intercession. His prayer was immediately heard; and having given due thanks to the Almighty, he ceased not, as long as he lived, to praise Saint Maxilinda, and invoke her as his intercessor with God. This martyrdom took place in the latter half of the seventh century.

Practical Considerations

• The two Saints, whose history we have related were at the same time virgins and martyrs. Saint Cecily was a martyr of faith; Saint Maxilinda, a martyr of chastity. Saint Cecily manifested, in deeds, that she esteemed the true faith above honor, wealth and life; while Saint Maxilinda proved by her death that she preferred chastity to all the treasures of the world, and even to her own life. The one died rather than forsake the true faith: the other, rather than break the vow she had made to God. May the entire Christian world learn from these two Christian heroines, the value of the true faith and chastity. There have been many, who, for temporal gain forsook the true faith, or by an ill advised marriage, placed themselves in great danger of becoming apostates. These will, one day, though too late, learn, to their eternal misery, what they lost and what they gained. There are also many, who for some temporal ad- vantage, or to satisfy their desires, lose their innocence, and thus imitate the traitor Judas, when he offered to sell his divine Master, saying: “What will you give me and I will deliver him unto you?” (Matthew 26) Woe to all these senseless people! In eternity, they will curse their wickedness and blindness, and cry out: “Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us.” (Wisdom 5) I hope that my reader does not resemble such blind and foolish people.

• Saint Cecily carried the Gospel continually with her, read it with great delight, and endeavored to conform her life to its precepts. Saint Maxilinda passed much time in devout reading, and drew from it, not only the spirit of piety which animated her, but also her love of chastity and her strength to protect it. What book do you carry about? What books do you read? And what sort of spirit do you draw from them? Are your books such that you can gain salvation by following their lessons? or are they such that nothing can be learned from them but vanity, pride, licentiousness, infidelity, heresy, and contempt of God and ‘His holy religion? If you value your soul, read only such books as Saint Paul recommended to Timothy: books that will instruct you in the way you have to walk in order to gain your salvation. Avoid those which would lead you to the broad path of evil and thus precipitate you into eternal ruin. Rest assured that many have fallen into great crimes by reading immoral and heretical books, and have by this means gone to everlasting destruction. Others, on the contrary, by reading a devout book, were animated with true piety, which afterwards, strengthened by the same means, guided them in the way to heaven. Follow the example of the latter, and appoint a time in which you will read the Gospel, or other devout book; and take care, at the same time, that, after the examples of Saint Cecily and Saint Maxilinda, you conform your life in accordance with the lessons you will receive. “Thou must know,” writes Saint Jerome, “that God not only commands us to be acquainted with His laws, but also, to live up to them.”

• The purity of these two holy virgins was wonderfully preserved by the Almighty. He protected them while they were in the most imminent danger. To increase Maxilinda’s glory in heaven, God permitted her to be slain in defense of her chastity. But why did the Lord thus protect both of them? Because both placed their trust in Him, and prayed for His aid, and did everything in their power to help themselves. If you do not, in like manner, receive the divine protection, in temptations of body and soul, then the fault is in yourself, not in God. Your trust in the Almighty is not what it ought to be. Your prayer is either faulty or perhaps entirely neglected, and you do not resist earnestly enough. Correct your conduct in this respect, if you wish God to hear you. Do all that is in your power and call on God for help. Repeat frequently the short, but expressive prayer of Saint Cecily: “O Lord! preserve my heart and body pure, that I may not go to destruction.” Add mortification to prayer, as Saint Cecily did, and then trust implicitly in the Lord; for, Holy Writ assures us that God will not forsake those who trust in Him. He has the power to protect, and will surely hold His hand over you. “Do all you can,” says Saint Bernard, “and leave the rest to the Almighty.” He will do all that you are unable to do. “In every danger and temptation, we must endeavor to help ourselves as strenuously, as though there was no God to assist us, or as though we had everything to do for ourselves; but at the same time, we must call for aid on the Most High, as though we possessed no means whatever to help ourselves.” Thus speaks Saint James of Nisibis.

In conclusion, every parent ought to learn, from the history of Saint Maxilinda, the great misfortune he may occasion by promising his children to any one, without their consent, or by forcing them to marry against their inclination. It is natural that parents should advise their children in regard to marriage, and when a child wishes to marry one who is not a Catholic, it is their duty to oppose it with all their power; but to force them to bind themselves for life to one for whom they have no inclination is not allowed; because this occasions dissensions and many crimes for which they will have, one day, to render an account to the Almighty. Children, however, must also know that they commit great sin by giving their promise to any one without sufficient reason, by marrying without the knowledge of their pa- rents or perhaps even against their prohibition. We generally find that such marriages are not blessed; as, according to Holy Writ, the Almighty has pronounced an especial curse against children who bring sorrow upon their parents, or who wickedly provoke their anger.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Maxilinda, Virgin and Martyr”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 May 2018. Web. 19 November 2018. <>