ST. RICTRUDES, ABBESS
THIS mother of saints was a lady of the first
quality in France, born in Gascony in 614, and married to Adalbald,
one of the principal lords of the court of king Clovis. She had by
him four children, who, copying after her example, and being happily
educated in her maxims of perfect piety, deserved all to be honored
among the saints: namely, St. Mauront, abbot of Breüil, St.
Clotsenda, abbess of Marchiennes, St. Eusebia, or Isoye, abbess of
Hamay, and St. Adalsenda, a nun at Hamay. So great a benediction does
the sanctity of parents draw upon a whole family. St. Amand being
banished into the southern parts of France, Rictrudes finding him to
be truly a man of God, committed herself entirely to his direction,
to walk with fervor in the paths of evangelical perfection. The death
of her husband, who was assassinated in his return from his estates
in Flanders, not only set her at liberty, but was a powerful means to
wean her heart perfectly from the world. Thus the most grievous
temporal affliction proved her greatest spiritual blessing. She was
yet young, and exceeding rich; and king Clovis II. sought, even by
threats, to oblige her to marry one of his favorite courtiers.
However, she maintained her ground, and at length was permitted to
receive the religious veil from the hands of St. Amand. She had
before this founded an abbey of monks on a marshy ground in her
estate of Marchiennes, under the direction of St. Amand. Being now a
widow, she built a separate monastery for nuns in the same place,
which she governed herself forty years. She was clad with rough
hair-cloth, and fasted, watched, and prayed almost without
intermission. She sighed continually after the goods of the heavenly
Jerusalem; for, as St. Bernard says:1 “Thou desirest not
sufficiently the joys to come if thou dost not daily ask them with
tears. Thou knowest them not, if thy soul doth not refuse all comfort
till they come.” When the film with which the love of the world
covers the eye of the soul is removed, by a perfect disengagement of
the heart from its toys, then she sees and feels the weight of her
distance from her God. And till she can be drowned in the ocean of
his love, she finds no other comfort in her banishment but in the
contemplation of his goodness, and in sighs excited by his love.
Rictrudes, that she might more freely pursue these exercises, which
were the delight of her heart, resigned her superiority some time
before her happy death, which happened on the 12th of May, 688, she
being seventy-four years old. This nunnery was abolished, and its
revenues given to the monks in the same place, in 1028. The body of
St. Rictrudes is honorably entombed in the church of that great
Benedictin abbey. Her name is inserted in many monastic and local
calendars, and several churches and altars have been formerly erected
in Flanders under her invocation, mentioned by Papebroke. In the
church of St. Amatus at Douay, in the chapel of St. Mauront, among
the statues of the saints of his family the third is of St.
Rictrudes. Her life was compiled by Hucbald, a learned monk of St.
Amand’s, in 907. Surius altered the style; but this is restored
to its original integrity by Mabillon, (Act. Bened. t. 2, p. 938,)
and Papebroke the Bollandist, who has enhanced the value of this work
by judicious remarks, (t. 3, Maij, p. 80,) and has added several long
histories of her miracles compiled by several monks of St.
Marchiennes and St. Amand’s in different ages.