Okay, before we get started on my patron saint for June, let’s get a few things sorted.
This is a magical owl called Hedwig from the best-selling series about teenage wizards and witches who fight, among other things, raging hormones, OH&S regulations, and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
And this is an awesome Catholic saint called Hedwig.
Besides their name, they have nothing in common! But I think for a lot of us, when we think of Hedwig, we’re going to think of the owl first. That’s kind of a shame because St Hedwig of Silesia is one beautiful saint.
St Hedwig, or Jadwiga, was born in 1174 in Bavaria, the daughter of Count Berthold IV of Andeches and Agnes of Wettin. She was educated at a Benedictine monastery and at only twelve years old, married Henry the Bearded, Duke of Silesia and later High Duke of Poland. (Is anyone else imagining that Henry the Bearded was born with a massive beard?)
It seems to be have a blessedly happy marriage. Both Henry and Hedwig led pious lives, devoted to good works and serving the Lord in humility, despite their exalted stations. They had seven children, one of whom died leading the battle against the invading Mongols. In 1238, Duke Henry himself died and Hedwig joined the Cistercian monastery which she and her husband had founded — and where her daughter, Gertrude was abbess. There, she was renowned as a saintly woman. She even
So why is this 12th Century duchess and widow my patron saint for June?
I think it’s simply because I’m going to Poland soon!!! The duchy of Silesia, where St Hedwig lived all her adult life, is now mostly located in Poland. It’s just west of Krakow, the City of Mercy where World Youth Day 2016 will be held.
It’s a powerful reminder that the Catholic culture of Poland, which gave birth to incredible modern saints we’ll be celebrating at World Youth Day — like St John Paul II, St Faustina and St Maximilian Kolbe — didn’t just happen. This culture was nurtured and defended by Christians for centuries. Think of the number of nuns who would have prayed in that one Cistercian monastery which St Hedwig helped to found.
Countless saints, remembered and forgotten, have lived the precepts of the Gospel and transformed their own communities with the light of Christ. That doesn’t mean any Christian culture is perfect — quite the opposite! But it is a reminder that we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves. And what we do may bear fruit today or it may not bear fruit for thousand years. But in God’s providence, nothing is wasted.
He works all things for good of those who love Him.
I have no idea what to expect in Poland. It will be my first World Youth Day and honestly, it’s a bit scary! I think St Hedwig would understand. She was barely a teenager when she went to Silesia to marry an unknown duke. (Admittedly, I (probably) won’t be marrying a duke.)
But both of us are part of something greater — the Church which is the Body of our Lord. This is one thing that won’t just last a thousand years, it will endure forever.
I pray that St Hedwig will prepare my heart for whatever the Lord has in store for me in Poland. I pray that she will interceding for the all the pilgrims, that the Mercy of God will sweep across the city and the world.
St Hedwig of Silesia, pray for us!