Saint of the Day – 11 March – St Aurea of San Millán (1043-1070) Spanish Nun and Anchorite, Ascetic, Visionary, Miracle-worker. Born in c1042 at Villavelayo, Spain and died in 1069 at San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja, Spanish Navarre of natural causes. Also known as – Oria (from the Latin: golden). Patronage – Villavelayo.
Aurea was born in 1043 in the village of Villavelayo, then part of Zaragoza, a region controlled by the Moors. Her mother was St Amunia who died in 1069 and her memory is also celebrated today.
As a child, Aurea studied the Scriptures and the lives of the early martyrs of the Church, under the guidance of a Monk named Munio, who would later write her Vita. Her favourite Saints to meditate upon and to try to imitate, were Saint Agatha, Saint Eulalia and Saint Cecilia.
When she was aged nine years old, Aurea decided to leave the world and to embrace a life of asceticism. Her mother took her to the Benedictine Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla, where they appealed to the Prior, St Dominic de Silos (1000-1073) (later founder and namesake of the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos) for help in this. After some consideration as to how to proceed, Prior Dominic had a narrow cell built for her in the wall of the Monastery Church, with a small window through which she could see the Altar and another to the outside. He became her spiritual guide and she took the vows of a Benedictine Nun..
Aurea completely applied herself to the contemplative life. By the age of 20, she was living in a cave, where she received a vision of her three favourite Saints and was encouraged to follow her chosen lifestyle with more zeal. St. Eulalia gave her a pigeon, which image became connected to her, instructing her to follow it as an example of how she was to seek God.
Aurea performed many miracles and many people began to seek her advice and prayers. She supported herself by embroidering vestments for the Monastery and hosts for the Mass.
She did not live long after her visions. During the winter of 1070 she contracted a painful disease. At the time of her death, Aurea was twenty-seven years old.
Her body was initially buried in her cave which served as her shrine until 1609, when the bulk of her remains were enshrined at the Monastery, with some being given to the Parish Church of her home town of Villavelayo, where a special Chapel was built to house them and to honour her as the Patron Saint of the Town.
A Confraternity established to honour her, cares for the Shrine and organises an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine at the Monastery.