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February 25

St Walburga - February 25

Saint Walburga

Nun, Abbess, Missionary

(Around 710 – 779)

“Do not fear, the hounds will not hurt Walburge.”

Saint Wlaburga’s response outside of a castle when told that hungry savage wolf-hounds would tear her down during her evening visit

Saint’s Life Story

Her Early Life 

Walburga (also known as Walbugre or Walburpa) was born in Devonshire, Wessex, England around 710 to a local aristocratic family. Her father, was Saint Richard the King. Her mother was Winna , who was the sister of Saint Boniface. She had two brothers, Saint Willibald of Eichstätt and Saint Winibald. At the Wimborne Abbey in Dorset, England, Walburga was a student of Saint Tatta. When her father set out for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his sons, he entrusted 11-year-old Walburga to be the abbess of Wimborne. She was educated by the nuns at the monastery school at Wimborne. Later, Walburga became a nun there, remaining with the community for twenty-six years.

Evangelist in Germany

When Saint Boniface requested nuns to help him in the evangelization of pagan Germany, Walburga responded to that call. On the way to Germany, there was a terrible storm at sea. She knelt on the deck of the ship and prayed. The sea immediately became calm. The sailors who witnessed this spread the word that she was a miracle worker, so she was received in Germany with great respect.  

Abbess at Heidenheim and Author

Beginning in 748, Walburga evangelized and healed pagans in what is now Germany with Saint Lioba, Saint Boniface, and her brothers. This mission was very successful. Initially, Walburga lived at Bischofsheim, under the rule of Saint Lioba. Then, she was made abbess at the Heidenheim monastery, close to where her brother, Winibald served as an abbot over at the men’s monastery. After his death, Walburga ruled both monasteries as superintendent.  In the course of her ministry, she worked many miracles. Because of her rigorous training, she was able to write her brother Winibald’s vita and an account in Latin of his travels in Palestine. As a result, she is often called the first female author of both England and Germany.

Transferred Her Brother’s Relics Before Her Death

On September 23, 776, Walburga assisted Willibald in translating the uncorrupt relics of their brother, Saint Winibald, to a new tomb in the church at Heidenheim. Shortly after this, she became ill. Saint Willibald cared for Walburga until she died on February 25, 777, at the Heidenheim, Swabia, Germany. Then he placed Walburga next to Saint Winibald in the tomb.

After Her Death

After Saint Willibald’s death in 786, people gradually forgot Saint Walburga and the church fell into disrepair. In 870, Bishop Oktar was having Heidenheim restored when some workmen desecrated Walburga’s grave. She appeared in a dream to the bishop, who then translated her relics to Eichstätt.

St. Walburga’s Oil

In 893, Saint Walburga’s body was found to be immersed in a mysterious sweet-smelling liquid. It was found to work miraculous healings. The liquid, called St. Walburga’s oil, has flowed from her body, ever since, except for a brief period when the church was put under the interdict after robbers shed the blood of a bell-ringer in the church. Portions of Saint Walburga’s relics have taken to several other cities and her oil to all parts of the world.

Walpurgisnacht

The night of May 1st, the date of the translation of Walburga’s relics to Eichstätt in 870, is known as Walpurgisnacht; it is also a pagan festival marking the beginning of summer and the revels of witches. Though the saint had no connection with this festival, her name became associated with witchcraft and country superstitions because of the date. It is possible that the protection of crops ascribed to her, represented by three ears of corn in her icons, may have been transferred to her from Mother Earth and the connection to this pagan holiday. 

Born:                    Around 710 in Devonshire, Wessex, England

Died:                    February 25, 779 (Feast Day) in Heidenheim, Swabia, Germany

Beatified:            Not Known

Canonized:         870 by Pope Adrian II

Feast Day:          February 25

Patron Saint:     Against Coughs; Against Dog Bites; Against Hydrophobia; Against Mad Dogs; Against Rabies; Antwerp, Belgium; Diocese of Eichstätt, Germany; Diocese of Plymouth, England; In Storms; Mariners; Oudenarde, Belgium; Sailors; Zutphen, Netherlands

Sources:

Reflection

Saint Walburga, you were one of the first women called as a woman missionary to evangelize and heal pagans. Your strong faith combined with prayer calmed seas in your crossing from England to Germany. Your educational skills allowed you to write about your brother St. Winibald’s life and an account in Latin of your other brother, St. Willibald’s travels in Palestine. Thus, you are looked upon by many as the first female author of England and Germany. After your brother’s death, you uniquely ruled as abbess over both monasteries – probably another first. No task was too big for you to do to shine God’s glory for all to see.

What is a “first” that you can do today to shine forth God’s glory for all to see? Remember that your “first” could be a simple act of kindness to someone you have met for the first time. Pray to God to give you the grace, strength and wisdom to do great things for God’s glory for all to see.

Prayers

O holy St. Walburga, glorious servant of God, after you had lived holy in peaceful obscurity, you were united by your blessed death to your Divine Spouse, Jesus Christ, in order to receive from Him the reward of your virtues. You followed the Lamb wherever He went. You shared in that glory and joy which only the clean of heart can enjoy. You are enthroned amid the choir of saints, joined by your holy parents, St. Richard and St. Wuna, and to your holy brothers, St. Willibald and St. Wunibald. Forget not those who still have to struggle amid the stormy sea of life, and obtain for them the prize of victory. 

Saint Walburga, pray for us. Amen.

Source: Prayers to St. Walburga – St. Emma Monastery – Greensburg, PA (stemma.org)

Saint Links 

Abbey of St. Walburga – St. Walburga: Our Patroness

Aleteia – These miraculous oils continue to bring healing

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Walburga

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 25 February – St Walburga (c 710-779)

A Reason2BeCatholic – Saints Alive! | St. Walburga

Catholic Fire – St. Walburga: Missionary, Benedictine Nun, and First Woman Author in England and Germany

Catholic Ireland – Feb 25 – St Walburga (d. 779)

Catholic Online – St. Walburga

Catholic Saints.Info – A Life of Saint Walburge, by Father Thomas Meyrick, SJ

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Walburga

New Advent – Casanova, G. (1912). St. Walburga. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

St. Walburg Abbey (Abtei St. Walburg) –  Life and work of St. Walburga

Wikipedia – Saint Walpurga

Video Link