Saint of the Day – 16 June – St Lutgarde of Aywières (1182-1246 –The first known female stigmatic of the Church and one of the first promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart – Religious, Mystric, Miracle-Worker, Stimatist, Visionary (1182 at Tongres, Limburg, Belgium – 16 June 1246 at Aywieres (modern Awirs), Belgium of natural causes, just as night office began on the Saturday night following Feast of the Holy Trinity) Her relics were transferred to Ittre, Belgium on 4 December 1796 to avoid destruction in the French Revolution. Patronages – birth, childbirth, blind people, againts blindness, disabled, handicapped of physically challenged people, Belgium, Flanders, Belgium. Attributes – • woman with Christ showing her His wounded side, blind Cistercian abbess, Cistercian nun being blinded by the Heart of Jesus, Cistercian to whom Christ extends his hand from the cross, woman in attendance when Christ shows his Heart to the Father
When Lutgarde was twelve, her parents placed her in the care of the Benedictine sisters at St. Catherine’s monastery near Liège, Belgium. The convent allowed visitors and young men came to court the beautiful young woman. Once when an ardent fellow and Lutgarde were talking, Christ appeared to her. Opening His garment, Christ showed Lutgarde the wound in His side bleeding as if recently opened and He said to her, “Do not seek any longer the caresses of unseemly love. Contemplate here what you should love and why you should love it. Here, I pledge to you are the delights of total purity, which will follow it.” When the confused young man tried to resume their conversation, Lutgarde chased him off. “Get away from me, you fodder of death,” she said, “for I have been overtaken by another lover.”
St. Lutgarde made unusually rapid progress in the spiritual life. She opened herself fully to Christ in prayer and He favoured her with an intimate experience of His presence. He gave her gifts of healing and of understanding the convent’s Latin prayers. But she asked him to take them back because both kept her from focusing on loving Him. Then the Lord said to her, “What do You want?” “I want Your heart,” she said. “No, rather it is Your heart that I want,” replied the Lord. “So be it, Lord,” said Lutgarde, “so long as Your heart’s love is mingled with mine and I have and hold my heart in You. For with You as my shield, my heart is secure for all time.”
St Lutgarde spent nine years in St. Catherine’s convent and she was elected to be Superioress of the community there. The year was 1205, when the saint was twenty-three years old. Far from being flattered or pleased by her elevation to this dignity, Lutgarde regarded it as a disaster. Indeed, it seems to have moved her to look elsewhere and to seek some other Order. She thought St. Catherine’s could provide her with sufficient opportunities for living as a contemplative as long as she was an obscure member of the community but not when she took her place at its head. While taking up her role as Superior, it was natural that her thoughts should turn to the austere Cistercian nuns, commonly known as Trappists, who had by this time, many flourishing convents in the Low Countries.
She asked the advice of a learned preacher of Liege, Jean de Lierre, who urged her to give up her post as prioress and leave the Benedictine Order for the Cistercian convent of Aywieres, (Awirs) which had recently been founded near Liege but had been transferred to a site in Brabant, near the village of Lillois. She was very reluctant to accept this particular choice because French was spoken in Brabant and she felt it would be unwise to enter a convent where she would not understand the language of her superiors or spiritual directors. Meanwhile, Christ Himself intervened and spoke the following words to her: “It is My will that you go to Aywieres, and if you do not go, I will have nothing more to do with you.”
As if this were not enough, Lutgarde was also admonished by a saintly friend, who has since been venerated as St. Christine “the Admirable” who told her to go to Aywieres and so with no further possibility of doubt as to the convent of the Cistercian Order to which she was called, Lutgarde left St. Catherine’s without consulting her community and went to Aywieres.
When the nuns of St. Catherine’s discovered their loss, they were inconsolable, but it was too late to do anything about it. Lutgarde, in her turn, prayed earnestly for the peace of the community she had left and was assured by the Blessed Virgin that her prayers would be answered. Indeed, Thomas of Cantimpre ends the first book of his life of St. Lutgarde with the comment: “The indubitable effect of these prayers is to be seen even today [some fifty years later] in the community of St. Catherine’s. For this particular convent continues to grow in fervour more than ever, and to increase, at the same time, in temporal prosperity.”
Three times she fasted for periods of seven years, subsisting only on bread and liquids. The saint dedicated each fast for the Lord’s purposes: once for Lutgarde of Aywières the conversion of heretics, a second time for the salvation of sinners and a final time for Emperor Frederick II, who was threatening the church. Before her death she prophesied the latter’s demise, which occurred in 1250.
St Lutgardis is considered one of the leading mystics of the 13th century.[ A life of Lutgardis, Vita Lutgardis, was composed less than two years after her death by Thomas of Cantimpre, a Dominican friar and a theologian of some ability. Lutgardis was venerated at Aywières for centuries and her relics were exhumed in the 16th century. Works of art depicting the saint include a baroque statue of Lutgardis on the Charles Bridge by Matthias Braun in Prague and a painting by Goya.
Thomas Merton, in his biography of the Saint, reports that she had a particular devotion to St. Agnes, the Roman virgin martyr. She was one day praying to St. Agnes when “suddenly a vein near her heart burst, and through a wide open wound in her side, blood began to pour forth, soaking her robe and cowl.” She then sank to the floor and “lost her senses.” She was never known to have been wounded in this way again but it is known that she kept the scar until the end of her life. This took place when she was twenty-nine years old. Witnesses to this event were two nuns, one named Margaret, the other Lutgarde of Limmos, who washed the Saint’s clothes.
Thomas Merton also tells that on many occasions, this saintly Cistercian, in meditating on Christ’s Passion, would fall into ecstasy and sweat blood. A priest who had heard of this sweat of blood watched for an opportunity to witness it himself. One day he found her in ecstasy, leaning against a wall, her face and hands dripping with blood. Finding a pair of scissors, he managed to snip off a lock of the Saint’s hair which was wet with blood (he did so thinking to have proof of the event and also to have the lock of hair as a relic) As he stood marveling at the blood on the lock of hair, the Saint suddenly came to herself. Instantly the blood vanished; not only from her face and hands but also from the lock in his hands and also the blood that was on his hands! Thomas Merton writes “At this, the priest was so taken aback that he nearly collapsed from astonishment.”
St. Lutgarde spent four decades at Aywières entirely devoted to the heart of Christ. Five years before her death, that is, in 1241, St. Lutgarde received the revelation that she would enter heaven on the third Sunday after Pentecost, when the Gospel of the Great Marriage Feast would be sung. She died in 1246.
Read further about St Lutgarde here : http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2015/09/st-lutgarde-of-aywieres-first-known.html
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