Monday 25 February 2013

Saint Aldetrude of Malbod, February 25

At February 25 Canon O'Hanlon brings an account of a Belgian abbess, Altedrude of Malbod, whom the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, claimed was of Irish descent:

St. Aldetrude, or Aldetrudis, Virgin and Abbess of Malbod, or Maubeuge, Belgium.

This holy virgin is claimed as belonging to the Saints of Ireland, by Father John Colgan, who inserts her Acts at the 25th of February, because on the father's side, her ancestral blood was Irish, even although she was born in Belgium, and lived there. The Bollandists, after a Scholiast introduction, produce a brief Latin Life of the saint, adding some few notes, by way of elucidation. These Acts are made up from a Manuscript Codex of St. Aldetrude's Life, found in the Monastery of Rubra Vallis, near Bruxelles, and inserted in the first part of the Brabantine Hagiology; and again, from Lessons of the Breviary, for the collegiate church of Mons, founded by St. Waldetrude. The father of St. Aldetrude was Maelceadar or Maldegarius, also called Vincent, the latter name having been received on account of numerous victories he obtained, and for this reason, too, he was created Count of Hainault, in the Low Countries, by Dagobert, the renowned King of the Franks. This latter monarch to increase those honours gave his relative St. Waldetrude, or Waldetrudis, in marriage. Their alliance was the happy occasion, for giving at a future time four holy children to the Church, viz. : St. Landric, Bishop of Meaux; St. Dentelinus, Patron of Rosensis, in Cleves; St. Aldetrude and St. Madelberta.

The sister of St. Waldetrude, called St. Aldegunde, had founded a religious establishment at Maubeuge, a town in French Flanders, and near the southern border line of Belgium. From her earliest infancy, St. Aldetrude, with her sister, St. Maldeberta, was distinguished for her pious dispositions; and both were placed under the charge of their holy aunt Aldegunde, to receive a secular and a religious training. The influence and precepts of this holy woman soon brought her nieces to despise the vanities of this world, and to resolve on dedicating their virgin souls to Christ. Our saint especially loved to hear the Gospel sentences, relating to the wise and foolish virgins, she engaged in fervent and constant prayer, in continual vigils, in abundant alms-givings. One interesting anecdote is related. Being resolved, that the wax used in the altar candles should not go to waste, Aldetrude gathered the scrapings, drippings, and fragments of tapers to put them again into the pot. When placed on the fire, however, and when the wax melted, it caught fire. Thinking there was danger from the blaze, and not wishing to lose the wax, Aldetrude boldly seized the pot, and lifted it in her hands from the fire, to the stone floor. Although some of the melted wax ran over her hands and arms, she miraculously escaped without any burn or hurt, as a consequence of this brave adventure. This gave great edification to all the servants of the convent, who were present.

Several sisters in her nunnery had remarkable visions, confirming the sanctity of Aldetrude. One of these visions showed a star descending and ascending, as if inviting the nuns to the marriage feast of their heavenly bridegroom. When her holy aunt, Aldegunde, was summoned from earth to heaven, our saint was appointed to succeed her, in the administration of conventual affairs, at Maubeuge. Over this community she presided most religiously, for a term of twelve years. During this period, St. Aldetrude ruled her nuns with great care and charity. One of her spiritual daughters, when the offices for the day had ended, and when all had retired to rest, enjoyed a vision of the Apostle St. Peter and of St. Aldetrude. They seemed to stand, at the corner of the altar, and engaged in conversation. With a benignant smile, the Apostle was heard to exclaim: "Have courage, amiable virgin, for I shall have thee and thy servants under my constant guardianship, and I shall bring to naught the efforts of the old enemy." Again looking, the nun saw a honey-comb on the lips of her Abbess, and a ladder was near, by which she endeavoured to ascend towards heaven. The relation of this vision gave great comfort to Aldetrude's religious community.

Another nun heard one Sunday night the sound. of men's voices speaking to the Abbess, whose hand she held in the courtyard of the nunnery. Yet could she see no person. But venturing to ask her superioress, what she had learned, the latter said, "I heard them say : because thou art a queen, thou shalt be wedded to an eternal king." Aldetrude then fell upon her knees, and in joy struck her breast devoutly, saying, "Lord, how can this be, since I am an unworthy sinner?" Another time, eagles were seen flying towards heaven and bearing thither, as it were, St. Aldetrude and her prayers. Yet, she had some doubts regarding their efficacy, and respecting her own merits ; but, she was re-assured in a nocturnal vision, when she saw a large and a bright crystal globe fly before her and towards the East. A few days, afterwards, a holy priest told her, that on the night of the Epiphany, he beheld a venerable long-haired man, coming as an Eastern King, with three wands, bearing flowers, in his hand. These he presented to Aldetrude, saying, "Thou shalt rule them with a wand, and they shall grow in her hand to the clouds." The holy Abbess fell on her knees, and prayed with tears to God. Again, being in the open space, before the doors of her church, and alone, looking towards the south, she was dazzled with the most vivid flashes of lightning, while a tremendous roar of thunder was heard. This terrified her so much, that she cried out, "Lord Jesus, into thy hands, I commend my spirit." Suddenly, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, in the shape of a most comely young man, passed by, and said, "Be not afraid, I will guard you." This gave her great confidence and courage.

One of St. Aldetrude's religious sisters related to St. Dado or Audoen, the bishop, a full account regarding the Life of her Abbess, not doubting but they should have an account of it for Maubeuge Nunnery, as the Abbot Sobnias, or Sobinus, had written a Life of her aunt, St. Aldegunde, for the Monastery of Nivelles.

St. Aldetrude departed to bliss, on the 25th of February; and, the year of her death is said to have been A.D. 676, although the Bollandists seem to think, that she survived St. Audeon. But this is by no means certain.

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