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

Saint OsithArticle

Saint Ositha, a royal princess of England, ascended to heaven in 653, adorned with the double crown of virginity and martyrdom. Her parents, Friedebald and Witteberga, greatly inclined to piety, sent their daughter early into a convent, that she might receive a pious education. Saint Editha, the sister of a Saxon king, was Abbess at the same convent and, leading a holy life herself, she endeavored early to inspire Ositha with love for all that was good and virtuous. Ositha, obeying her in everything, showed, in her very childhood, the greatest zeal and fervor. The example of the holy Abbess and of the other Religious was constantly before her eyes and she endeavored to conform her life to it.

One day, Editha gave the little maiden a book, with the request that she would carry it to a neighboring convent and hand it to the Abbess Modwena. To go to this convent, Ositha had to cross a bridge, and she had hardly placed her foot upon it, when a violent wind tore her away, from the side of the servant who accompanied her, into the river. Editha and Modwena, when informed of it, ran in great trepidation to the water, but saw no trace of the beloved child. They therefore took refuge in prayer, and after it, Modwena called aloud: “Ositha! Ositha! in the name of the Holy Trinity, arise out of the water!” Ositha immediately rose to the surface, crying: “I am here, my lady! I am here!” Holding the book in her hand which she was to carry to Modwena, she floated to the shore. Both the holy Abbesses wept for joy, and thanked God for so visible a miracle. Ositha increased her zeal to serve the Almighty, as she recognized that she had again owed Him her life. Her father, some years later, recalled her to Court, where she soon became aware of the many dangers which surrounded her, but always knew how to conduct herself in such a manner, that she kept her innocence unspotted. The means she used for this were prayer, mortification of the body and partaking frequently of the Holy Communion. Thus she remained in the path of virtue, and was not carried away by the pleasures and vanities of life at court.

In the course of time, Sigerius, a powerful monarch of the East Angles, desired Ositha in marriage. The parents consented without any hesitation, but Ositha, who had already taken the vow of perpetual virginity, could not be moved. Her parents at last used force, and Ositha was obliged to yield. The marriage ceremonies were performed with regal splendor; but the bride, with deep sighs and tears, prayed to the Almighty to aid her in preserving her purity. God heard and assisted her. An unexpected event called Sigerius away; and he had hardly departed, when Ositha secretly left the court, fled to a convent, had her hair cut off and attired herself in the religious habit. After this, she prayed with humble trust to God, to turn the heart of her spouse, so that he might not prevent her from what she had done out of love to chastity. Her prayers were answered; for when Sigerius was informed of what had taken place, although deeply grieved at the loss of so amiable a spouse, he would not interfere with her desire, but wished her every happiness in the vocation she had chosen. He even built a convent for her and endowed it richly, that she might live so much more undisturbed with those who desired to follow her. The joy that filled Ositha’s heart at the noble conduct of her spouse, it is impossible to express.

Ositha led, in the new convent, a life which was more angelic than human, until an army of Danish pirates landed on the neighboring coast Devastation followed them wherever they went; they ravaged the country with fire and sword. Their greatest fury was spent upon the convent; and when the pirates had forced their way into it, their chief, hearing that Ositha was of royal descent desired to make her his wife. The chaste virgin fearlessly assured him that she could never be united to him, not only because she was a Christian and he a pagan, but much more because she already had a divine spouse. The savage would not desist, but persecuted her for a long time with persuasion and promises; but when at length he found that all was useless, his love turned into hatred, and he told her with the most terrible menaces, that she must immediately abandon -her faith, or she would not live an hour longer. Saint Ositha, rejoicing at this opportunity to give her life for Christ’s sake, exclaimed that she was ready to die, not once but a hundred, nay a thousand times, rather than renounce Christ. Such grand heroism was more than the savage could endure, and, unsheathing his sword, he decapitated the chaste Christian virgin. Thus did Ositha gloriously end her innocent life, and God honored her tomb by many miracles.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Ositha’s life was miraculously preserved; and this impelled her to redouble her zeal in the service of God. Have you never been in danger of losing your life? Perhaps more than once. Who saved you in this danger? Do you think that it happened by chance that you did not perish? The same God who gave you life, preserved it in the hour of danger. Should not this be reason enough for you to serve God so much more fervently and to employ your days in His service only? At least, the remembrance of this benefit ought to restrain you from offending so gracious a God. If a physician were to cure you, by especial care and skill, of a dangerous malady, when every one thought you could not be saved from death, would you be so ungrateful as to do him harm or wrong and wound him? Certainly not. And why not? “O!” you would say; “he has saved my life. He does not deserve an injury from me.” But does God, who has so often shielded you in the greatest danger, not deserve as much? Oh! be ashamed of the ingratitude which you have until now shown to the Almighty, and reform. Truly, God, so kind to you, has not deserved that you should offend Him again, but that you should employ your whole life in His service.

• Saint Ositha preserved her innocence unspotted amidst the dangers of the Court. The means she employed to effect this were prayer, mortification, and partaking frequently of the holy Sacrament. There is no place in the world where we cannot live piously. Even at Sodom, Lot lived a godly life. There are dangers everywhere; but God has bestowed upon us means, by the aid of which, we can live securely and piously, in the midst of such dangers as we cannot avoid. One of these means is the frequent partaking of Holy Communion. It strengthens us in our spiritual life, and prevents us from falling easily into sin and from dying spiritually by losing the grace of the Most High. Hence, Christ instituted the holy Eucharist in the form of bread, as Saint Thomas has taught us. For as bread gives us strength, and preserves our bodily life, thus is the soul of man strengthened and his spiritual life preserved by the Blessed Sacrament; but with the great difference which Christ Himself pointed out to us when He said, that those who had eaten the Manna in the desert, were dead, while those who would partake of the bread which He would give, were to live eternally, that is, they would continue to live in His grace. And as it is necessary for the preservation of our bodily existence, that we partake frequently of bread, so he who would preserve his spiritual life should frequently receive holy Communion. Christ, our Lord has commanded us to receive it The first Christians went daily to holy Communion; hence their pious conduct. When in the course of time, Christians lost much of their fervor, the church commanded that they should go to holy Communion three times a year; and still later, at least once, at Easter. Pious Christians, however, go much more frequently; many do it every month when they have an opportunity.

Do the same, my dear reader, if you cannot do it every week. I also advise you to follow those who make a Spiritual Communion at Mass, every day. This consists in awakening during the communion of the priest, a lively faith in the presence of Christ, a strong hope and fervent love, as also deep sorrow for your sins and an intense desire to receive the Lord in the holy Sacrament. This spiritual communion is as beneficial to the soul as it is easy to practise. But especially be careful that you never partake of the blessed Eucharist without due preparation, as I have already admonished you elsewhere; and you will surely derive from it the same beneficial effect which the Almighty bestowed upon Saint Ositha. “You must go often to the source of mercy, that you may be cleansed from all evil thoughts, and streng- thened against the temptations of Satan,” says the pious Thomas a Kempis. The prophet Elias was so much strengthened by the bread which he ate at the command of the angel, that he walked forty days and nights, until he had reached Mount Horeb. Saint Thomas says that by frequently partaking of holy Communion, you will be strengthened to practise virtue; you will be led to Heaven!

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Ositha, Virgin and Martyr”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 May 2018. Web. 17 February 2019. <>