Donnerstag, 14. Mai 2009

St Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim


Today, 1 May on the Old Calendar, we celebrate the memory of St Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim, also known as 'Walpurgis', 'Gauburge', 'Vaubourg', 'Falbourg', and 'Waltpurde'. Here is the account of her life on the Fish Eaters site (also see my other post at Logismoi):

St Walburga was born in Devonshire, England in A.D. 710. Her parents were a West Saxon under-king who became known as St Richard, and St Boniface's sister, Winna. She had two brothers, boys who grew up to be known as SS Willibald and Winibald. When she was eleven, her father and brothers went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, so she was sent to the abbess of Wimborne who ran her Benedictine abbey with holiness and discipline in mind. Walburga's father died in Lucca a year after her arrival at the abbey, and she remained there for twenty-six years, receiving a good education, including the study of Latin. This last skill allowed her to write the account of her brother Willibald's pilgrimage, an act which has led to her being seen as the first female author of England and Germany.

Boniface wrote to the Abbess, asking that nuns be sent to help in in his work, and in A.D. 748, his wish was granted when the Abbess sent along some Sisters, Walburga amongst them. En route to Germany by boat, a great storm arose. As the waters raged above and beneath, Walburga knelt on the deck and prayed. Instantly, the sea became calm, and the sailors went on to proclaim the miracle at their destination. She made her way through Antwerp and then on to Mainz, where she met her Uncle Boniface and her brother, Willibald.

She spent some time in the abbey at Bischofsheim, and was later made abbess of Heidenheim, part of a double-monastery where her favorite brother, Winibald, ruled over the male monastics. When this beloved brother died, she not only ruled her abbey, but ruled over his monastery as well, and became known for her sanctity and miraculous gifts of healing. The story is told of how one night her Sisters came to accompany her down to supper, and found the hall to her room bathed in a divine light that remained until Matins the next morning.

On September 23, 776, she and her brother, Willibald, went to translate Winibald's relics to Heidenheim, but upon opening his tomb, found that no remains were left. Soon after this miracle, she became ill, and then died on February 25, 777 in the company of Willibald, who laid her to rest near Winibald. Willibald himself died in 786.

Jumping forward about a hundred years to A.D. 870, the Bishop of Eichstadt in Bavaria went to restore Walburga's monastery and church. In the process, the workmen desecrated her tomb, and she appeared to them to reproach them for their negligence. The good Bishop reacted by ensuring a solemn and respectful translation of her relics to the Church of the Holy Cross (now known as St Walburga's) in Eichstadt on September 21. But it is what happened twenty-three years later, in A.D. 893, that helps keep St Walburga in our consciousness. In that year, the successor to the Bishop who translated her relics opened her tomb to retrieve some of those relics for the Abbess of Abbess of Monheim. He found that her remains exuded an oil—a healing substance known as the ‘Oil of Saints’. This precious substance has been exuding from her remains yearly ever since between 12 October and 25 February, her Feast in the Benedictine Breviary, only stopping ‘during a period when Eichstadt was laid under interdict, and when blood was shed in the church by robbers who seriously wounded the bell-ringer’ (from the Catholic Encyclopedia). The Abbess got her relics, and some were also sent to Cologne, Antwerp, Furnes, and other places—many of these translations giving rise to Feasts—but it is her tomb in the church in Eichstadt that, to this day, exudes the fragrant, healing oil. A Benedictine nunnery (see picture below) immediately arose near the church that houses her tomb so that the Sisters could tend to her relics and help with the pilgrims who came for the healing oil. The Sisters have been there now for a thousand years.

Here as well is a brief German account from this site:

Walburga war die Tochter des Königs Richard von England und der Wunna und die Schwester von Willibald von Eichstätt und Wunibald von Heidenheim. Sie wurde um 748 von Bonifatius, dem Bruder ihrer Mutter, mit Lioba und anderen Gefährtinnen als Missionarin nach Deutschland gerufen und lebte als Nonne im Kloster Tauberbischofsheim. Mit drei Ähren habe sie ein Kind vom Hungertod errettet; auf dem Wege zur kranken Tochter eines Burgherrn sei sie von Hunden angefallen worden und habe den ihr zu Hilfe eilenden Knechten zugerufen, sie stehe unter dem Schutz Christi, worauf die Hunde von ihr abließen. 761 wurde Walburga zur Äbtissin des von Wunibald gegründeten Benediktinerklosters in Heidenheim in Franken ernannt; das dortige Doppelkloster war ein wichtiger Missionsstützpunkt. Sie ist dort auch bestattet. Die ‘alpurgisnacht’vom 30. April auf den 1. Mai hat inhaltlich keinen erkennbaren Zusammenhang mit der Heiligen, manche Überlieferungen berichten aber von ihrer Kanonisation durch Papst Hadrian II.er regierte 867 - 872—an einem 1. Mai, und in England wurde ihr Gedenktag am 1. Mai begangen.

1 comments:

Werner hat gesagt…

Hochachtung von einem Orthodoxen Deutsch-Amerikaner der auch sehr an der Heiligen Walburga haengt. Ich wurde von einem Priesternfreund, Arkhimandrit Anastasy Mastalski (Philadelphia) mit ohr bekannt gemacht, und wir haben zwei verschiedene Ikonenpodlinniki malen lassen, einmal von der Amerikanerin Cheryl Ptukh (Johnstown), und einmal von dem Russen Aleksandr Moskalenov (Moscow). In beiden Faellen wurden die Bildnisse mit der Oelflasche abgebildet. In der Moskalenov-Ikone wurde Hl. Walburga mit Abtissininenstag zusaetzlich abgebildet. In einem darauffolgenden Besuch in Eichstaett wurde mir von der Abtissin private Zeit mit den Gebeinen gegoennt, sowie drei kleine Flaeschchen des Oel, die von den Ikonograohen mit in den Ikonen 'eingebaut' wurden waren. Heilige Walburga bitte Gott fuer uns!

Vladimir Saemmler-Hindrichs
Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche des Hl Johannes Vorl.
Washington DC