Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Othilia, Virgin and Abbess

Saint OdiliaArticle

The Roman Martyrology records Saint Othilia, whose intercession is likewise invoked in diseases of the eyes. She was a daughter of Udalrick, Duke of Alsace, but as she was born blind, the barbarous father intended to take her secretly from her mother and have her killed. The mother, aware of his design, gave the child to a faithful nurse and had it secretly carried to Ratisbon. The nurse remained there six years and watched over the little child with the most tender care. Having heard much of the holiness of Erhard, at that time bishop of Ratisbon, she carried Othilia to him, requesting him to baptize the child, and pray that God might give her sight. Othilia was baptized, and God accepting the pious bishop’s prayer, gave her eyes the long wished for sight. The nurse then returned with her to her father’s house. The mother was inexpressibly happy, and gave thanks to the Almighty; but the father would not recognize her as his child, nor even suffer her in his house. The mother, therefore, to secure a peaceful home and a good education for her daughter, sent her into the Convent of La Baume, where she soon became so devoted to the religious life, that, with her mother’s consent, she received the veil. As the convent was very poor, Othilia begged her father to give her a dowry. This her father at first refused; but after some time his heart became softened by the many prayers which Othilia offered for him, and, begging her to forgive his past cruelty, he gave her all his possessions that she might employ them according to her wish to the honor of the Almighty. All he asked of her was that she would pray for him, in order that God might pardon his sins and grant him a happy death. His desire was fulfilled. He soon after died repentant, but appeared after his death to his daughter and informed her that he had still much to suffer in purgatory. The holy daughter ceased not to offer all her prayers and good works for his soul, until she was assured by him in another vision that he was delivered from purgatory. When her mind was at peace on his account, she erected a convent in which one hundred and thirty virgins found a dwelling. Othilia became their abbess, and governed them with great wisdom. To herself she was extremely austere, and fasted very strictly every day except Sundays and Holidays. She never partook of meat and fish, her food consisting of herbs, roots and rye-bread. She did not sleep in a bed, but on a bear-skin spread on the floor. Instead of a pillow she used a stone, while a poor patched dress served her for a covering. To those under her charge, however, she evinced a mother’s solicitude as well for their bodily as for their spiritual welfare; and she was in return loved and honored by them as a mother. Having thus passed her life in the service of God, she was called, after a short illness, to receive her eternal reward. Before and after her death God glorified her by many miracles. She is yet greatly honored in Alsace, especially on Mount Othilia, which is so called in her honor.

Practical Considerations

The life of Saint Othilia has shown you how powerful her prayers were with God. She obtained for her father the grace of conversion; and after his death, she relieved him from purgatory. You sometimes marvel that your prayers have not the desired effect. But you have no reason to wonder; you should much rather be astonished if they were answered. Tell me, do you not generally pray in such a manner that you do not even think of what you ask? Your thoughts wander, and hardly one of them is intent upon what you desire to obtain from God. You are not thinking of what you say, or to whom you are speaking; neither do you manifest any reverence in your prayers. Is it therefore to be wondered at when so miserable a prayer is unanswered? Perform it in future with more attention and devotion, and you may have more hope to receive from God what you ask for. Saint Ephrem says: “If you desire to speak with God, pay attention.” “If you would be heard by Him, first hear yourself what you would say. I greatly offend the Almighty, if I desire Him to hear a prayer which I do not hear myself,” says Saint Bernard. Saint Chrysostom writes: “Speaking to a friend, you are attentive to him; but speaking to God, and asking Him to pardon your sins, your thoughts are on your business, or on other matters. What power can such a prayer have? or, rather, what punishment does it not deserve?”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Othilia, Virgin and Abbess”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 17 August 2018. <>