Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Aldegunde, Abbess

illustration of Saint Aldegunde, Abbess, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberOn this day we honour in our Calendar Saint Aldegunde, whom we have mentioned in the Life of Saint Humbert as distinguished by more than one miracle, though the authorities, varying, place her feast, some in January, others in November.

Walbert and Bertilia were the parents of Aldegunde, who was born at the time that Dagobert was king of France. From her cradle Aldegunde hated the pomp of the world and burned with love for God. Her delight was to visit churches, to spend her days in devotion, and to prepare herself for the ascetic life for which she panted. Her pious inclinations were still further stimulated by her sister Waldetrude, whose marriage, after a short experience of it, was dissolved by the mutual consent of herself and her husband, Maldegarius, he retiring to a monastery on the banks of the Sambre, she to a convent in the same neighbourhood. As both were wealthy, their property enriched their respective houses.

When Aldegunde was grown up, Waldetrude feared that she might be tempted to marry, so she begged their mother to allow her sister to visit her. From the moment Aldegunde arrived, Waldetrude did not cease to impress on her sister’s willing heart that she should not give to any man the precious pearl of chastity, than which, she said, nothing found more favour in the sight of God. Bertilia, in the meantime, fearing Waldetrude’s influence over her sister, fetched her back in a carriage three days after her departure. Then she was bidden to receive the addresses of Endo, a young suitor of noble family and of great wealth. Averse as she was to marriage, Aldegunde had for the time to feign acquiescence. The jewellery and rich raiment that both her suitor and her parents heaped on her she accepted, but, to prevent herself from yielding to the temptation, she every night, unknown to her mother, disciplined herself with the scourge, and on her knees poured forth her soul in supplication to God. The presents she got were secretly distributed among the poor. The marriage was postponed by the sudden death of Bertilia, but Endo continued to press his suit with such ardour and persistence that no hope remained but in flight. In the night-time the pious virgin stole from her home and hid herself in a forest between the Sambre and Maubeuge.

Just about then, Saint Amandus, Bishop of Maestricht, chanced to come to the abbey, where her brother-in-law, Maldegarius, had taken the vows as a monk. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Aldegunde hastened thither and asked the Bishop to give her the veil. Amandus complied, and solemnly clothed her with a veil, which, it is related, the Holy Ghost, in the shape of a dove, carried in its bill and placed in the Prelate’s hands.

Now wedded to Christ, Aldegunde returned to Maubeuge, and there, as she was richly endowed with this world’s goods, she founded a house for men and another for women. Having made sufficient provision for the support of both houses, she bestowed the remainder of her wealth upon the poor.

So perfect in holiness did Aldegunde become that Saint Peter, Our Blessed Lady, and even Our Saviour Himself deigned to hold converse with her. In an ecstasy she saw the soul of Saint Amandus (who had recently died), surrounded by a bright light, joining the choirs of Angels, who were singing hymns of praise to the Most High. That her soul too should soon be permitted to approach the Eternal Throne was what Aldegunde longed for. However, she must first go through a term of probation. She prayed that she might, while alive, be allowed by suffering to atone for whatever in her was displeasing to Heaven. Kind Providence granted her request. She was afflicted with a malignant cancer. With the utmost cheerfulness and patience did she endure all the torments of this most loathsome disease. The Evil One, who tried to tempt her by offering to free her at once from pain, she repulsed with the help of the Crucifix. At last her trials ended, and she was called to her well-earned reward, A.D. 684.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.