Saint of the Day – 14 April – Saint Lydwina of Schiedam (1380-1433) aged 53 – Mystic, Ascetic, apostle of the Holy Eucharist and of penance and prayer, also known as Liduina, Lidwid, Lidwina, Lijdwine, Ludivine, Lydwid, Lydwine – born on 18 April 1380 (Palm Sunday) at Schiedam, Netherlands and died on 14 April (Easter Sunday) 1433 at Schiedam, Netherlands of natural causes. Patronages – against sickness, against bodily ills, ice skating, prolonged suffering. roller skating, skaters, Schiedam, Netherlands.
The story of Lydwina, the patron saint of ice skating, is a sad and fascinating one indeed. She was a Dutch girl born on a Palm Sunday and raised alongside eight brothers to a father and mother, Peter and Petronella who were a “poor noble” and ‘poor commoner”.
By all accounts, she was “a lovely and charming girl”. At age fifteen, in a severe winter Lydwina was skating with girlfriends when she fell and broke a rib and was put in bed in her family home. After her injury, gangrene set in and Lydwina became partially paralysed.
She never fully recovered and became progressively more disabled and ill throughout her life. It is believed that she became paralysed with the exception of her left hand and that parts of her body… “fell off”. Blood is reported to have spontaneously poured from her mouth, ears and nose. Some historians have hypothesised that accounts of her affliction may have actually been describing one of the first known cases of Multiple Sclerosis, which of course would not have been known at that time.
Much of Lydwina’s time was spent in prayer, meditation and in offering her pain to God. Devoutly spiritual, she developed a devotion to The Eucharist, was visited by saints and had visions in which she was shown a “Heaven and Purgatory”. Miracles reportedly occurred at her beside.
After Lydwina’s fall while skating, she fasted constantly and became reputed as a healer and holy woman, although many viewed her as being ‘under the influence of an evil spirit’ due to her deteriorating health.
Her hometown of Schiedam created a document that attests to her fasting. She ate only a little piece of apple, then part of a date, watered down wine and then river water that was contaminated with salt from the tides. This document created by Schiedam town officials (which still exists) also claims that she shed skin, bones and part of her intestines, which her parents kept in a vase until Lydwina had her mother bury them after they drew much attention.
She lost her sight seven years before her death but continued to fast and report visions, in one of which her Guardian Angel assisted her, until her death at age fifty three.
Posthumously, Lydwina’s grave became a place of pilgrimage. Thomas à Kempis’s (1380-1471) publication, Vita Lidewigis, A Life of St Lydwina, caused an increase in veneration. In 1615 her relics were taken to Brussels but in 1871 they were returned to Schiedam. In 1434, a chapel was built over it. Her relics were taken to Brussels, Belgium in 1615 but returned to Schiedam in 1871.
In 1890, Pope Leo XIII Canonised her. She is known as the patron saint of ice skaters and the chronically ill and her “feast day” is observed on 18 March, 14 April (universal memorial) or 14 June depending on the region and area’s tradition.
The Church of Our Lady of the Visatation, which was opened in 1859 in Schiedam closed in 1969 and her statue and relics were removed and moved to the chapel dedicated to her Basilica of Lydwina in West-Frankeland. In Schiedam, her name is attached to numerous institutions and the Intorno Ensemble foundation presents a bi-annual musical theatrical production about Lydwina, the town saint, in one of Schiedam’s churches.
Of her suffering at the end of her life, Lidwina allegedly said, “If I live to be healthy by Ave Maria again I would not want to.” Her final vision was of Christ administering last rites to her.
This powerful and heartwarming history makes it so fitting that Lydwina was named the patron saint of ice skating.
Surely, one of the parables of the story of St Lydwina, is that if you fall down, you never give up and you too may become a Saint. Your search for holiness, may, after all, only begin after the fall!