The Road Less Travelled — Saint Matilda


imageThere are many ways to become a saint, there’s no set of rules to follow that, if ignored, will prevent a person from finding his or her way to heaven. A saint whose day is celebrated today, Saint Matilda, is an example of the truth of that statement.

Matilda was born in Germany in the early part of the 10th century. She became the wife of a medieval king of Germany who died at a young age and whose son, Otto the Great succeeded to the throne. Matilda had favored Henry, her first born son to take the throne, but it was not to be. Henry briefly led a rebellion against his brother but was defeated and afterwards, Matilda persuaded Otto to name Henry Duke of Bavaria.

Matilda, in any case, had inherited considerable property from her husband and was extremely generous making charitable donations from that property, to the point of angering both of her sons who thought she went much too far in these efforts. In response, she relinquished title to the properties to them and retired to her country home. Henry, it appears started another rebellion, with the same results, and Matilda prophesied his imminent death. When that occurred, she established three convents and a monastery and went to live in one of them. She was still influential in the affairs of state though, to the point that her son left her in charge of the kingdom while he traipsed off to Rome and got himself crowned as Emperor, an event many historians see as the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. She was proclaimed a saint, by popular acclamation, almost immediately after her death.

To me, the encouraging thing about Matilda is that her life doesn’t seem to follow a path that you would expect would lead to sainthood. But the Church recognizes that there is no pattern to be followed to holiness; each one of us has to take his or her own path and work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I find that very encouraging indeed.

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