Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Saint Lutgarde of Aywieres

Memorial Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Saint Lutgarde of Aywieres

We celebrated the Memorial this morning, 16 Jun 2010
We remember St. Lutgard for her blindness in sight and her mysticism in light of inner sight. We enjoy hearing of her mystical life.
During the day I have been browsing the resources on:

CSQ (Cistercian Studies Quarterly)

1. Saint Lutgarde of Aywières: 1182-1982 What Are These Wounds? A Re-View Alan Gilmore / Vol 17.2 (1982) 181-93

2. Language and the Body in Thomas of Cantimpré’s Life of Lutgard of Awyières Alexandra Barratt / Vol 30.3 (1995) 339-47

3. Editor’s Note on Saint. Lutgarde: Nun of Aywières , Belgium Patrick Hart / Vol 35.2 (2000) 217

4. Saint Lutgarde: Nun of Aywières , Belgium Thomas Merton / Vol 35.2 (2000) 219-30

Bernard McGinn: Lutgarde of Aywieres, pp163-166. The Flowering of myticism 1200-1350. (The Presence of God: a History of Western Mysticism). Crossroad Publishising Co. U.S. 1998.

It looks as if Thomas Merton needlessly sowed his own doubt about the writing of "What Are These Wounds", The Life of Saint Lutgarde.
From the above reviews and articles, the work stands appreciation.
Merton's own PREFACE sets the touchstone by any yet followed the 'life of Lutgard.



Saint Lutgarde of Aywieres





  • IN the month of June, when the sun burns high in the bright firmament and when Cistercian monks, like all other farmers, hitch up their teams and go out to gather in the wheat, St. Lutgarde's Day comes around in the Liturgical cycle. It is not a universal feast, celebrated by the whole Church. It belongs only to two Belgian dioceses and to the saint's own Order-the Cistercians. Yet she is a saint whose spirit 'is as ardent and colourful as the June weather and as bright as the tiger lilies that enliven the fields and roadsides of America in the month in which we celebrate her memory. And it is especially fitting that her feast should occur in the month of the Sacred Heart. St. Lutgarde was one of the great precursors of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  • Seven hundred years ago, and some four hundred years before St. Margaret Mary laboured and prayed and suffered for the institution of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, St. Lutgarde of Aywieres had entered upon the mystical life with a vision of the pierced Heart of the Saviour, and had concluded her mystical espousals with the Incarnate Word by an exchange of hearts with Him. But there are other facts besides which make St. Li.rgarde worthy of the attention of the theologian, the Church historian, and of all religious souls. She was a contemporary of St. Francis, the first recorded stigmatic, and she too had received a mystical wound in her heart which historians have not hesitated to class as a stigma. This places her among the very earliest Christian stigmatics. Yet although she stands on the threshold of a spirituality that is distinctly "modern," St. Lutgarde's mysticism springs from the purest Benedictine sources. Her mystical contemplation, like that of St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde, is nourished almost entirely by the Liturgy. Above all, it centres upon the Sacrifice of Calvary and upon the Mass which continues that Sacrifice among us every day.

  • The charm of St. Lutgarde is heightened by a certain earthly simplicity which has been preserved for us unspoiled in the pages of her medieval biography. She was a great penitent, but she was anything but a fragile wraith of a person. Lutgarde, for all her ardent and ethereal mysticism, remained always a living human being of flesh and bone. When she was a young girl in the world she seems to have been remarkably attractive, and we can imagine her as some thing more than merely pretty. She must have had one of those marvellously proportioned Flemish faces, full of a mature and serious beauty, which we find in the paintings of the great Flemish masters of a later date than hers. She must have looked like the" Virgins" of Van Eyck. In any case, her entrance into the mystical life was not without an element of excitement and romance. She was faced with no mere abstract choice between heavenly and earthly love: it was not the mere solution of a conflict of ideals which brought her eventually to the cloister. She was carried into the arms of Christ by circumstances that shook her to the depths of her sensitive being.
  • The life of St. Lutgarde introduces us to a mysticism that is definitely extraordinary. This is not the mysticism which some theologians claim to be a "normal" development of the Christian life of grace and the infused virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Here we are in the presence of visions, ecstasies, stigmata, prophecies, miracles. St. Lutgarde was a " mystic" in the popular sense of that term, and her life was certainly colourful and extraordinary enough to make her popular with Catholics of our own time, too. Of course, medieval saints' lives abound in strange phenomena, and we are inclined to be a little suspicious of the facile enthusiasm with which so many pious writers of those days set down the deeds of their heroes as "miracles." But the biographer of 'St. Lutgarde, though occasionally suffering from the naivete common in his age, is as reliable as anyone in the thirteenth century.

  • Thomas of Cantimpre, the author of the Vita Luigardis was a Dominican friar and a theologian of some ability. He had studied at Cologne , under St. Albert the Great, as a classmate of St. Thomas Aquinas. He had also studied at Paris gaining a Doctor's Degree in Theology. Afterwards he taught theology and philosophy at Louvain . He was especially [1* Aeta Sanctorum Bollandiae, June. ii, p. 187 ff]. interested in mystical theology and in the direction of mystics. I lis writing springs from his practical experience and ob servation of souls in the great mystical ferment that swept the Low Countries in the thirteenth century. He wrote the life of Bl. Christine, " the admirable," whose levitations make her a worthy competitor for the honours of St. Joseph Cupertino, patron of airmen. He also wrote on Bl. Margaret of Ypres and Bl. Mary of Oignies, and capped it all with an allegory, the Bonum Universale de Apibus, in which he treats of moral and ascetic theology in a way that modern readers would find totally unpalatable.

  • His life of St. Lutgarde is a minor masterpiece. The Latin in which it is written is fresh and full of life and every page furnishes us with vivid little details that stamp his whole record of the saint's life with authenticity. Thomas of Can timpre was writing an objective and lively story of the life of one he had known intimately for sixteen years. At the time when he wrote this biography, shortly after the saint's death, Thomas of Cantimpre was prior of the Friars Preachers at Louvain and shortly afterwards he became suffragan bishop of Cambrai. He took care to have all his statements carefully checked, especially by another Dominican, Fra Bernard, Penitentiary to Innocent Il, who had also directed St. Lut garde. The authority of Thomas of Cantimpre is upheld by Denis the Carthusian, St. Robert Bellarmine, and many others.
  • The Vita Lutgardis was popularized by the famous Carthusian Lawrence Surius in the fifteenth century. In the seventeenth century it was translated into Spanish and Italian. There has never been an English translation of this life, nor any full-length book on St. Lutgarde in our language. The seventh centenary of the saint's death, in 1946, brought forth several works in French and Flemish, but we did not have access to these when the present volume was compiled. In any case, Thomas of Cantimpre is the one authentic source for all " lives" of St. Lutgarde. Many of the modern biographies simply paraphrase Thomas, adding a veneer of pious reflec tions concerning the visions and miracles of the saint.

  • The present book was written before Elected Silence. It was undertaken as an anonymous work in 1945, at the Abbey of Gethsemani, at the earnest wish of the Abbot of that Cistercian community, Dom M. Frederic Dunne, of holy memory. Dom Frederic had great devotion to St. Lutgarde, whom he resembled in his penitential ardour and in his fervent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her life expresses many of the themes that were dearest to Dom Frederic's heart and which, indeed, must always be dear to the heart of every contemplative monk: the love of God, penance and reparation, intercession for souls. But it cannot be too much stressed that in St. Lutgarde, as in all the early Cistercians, the love that embraces penance and hardship for the sake of Christ is never merely negative, never descends to mere rigid formalism, never concentrates on mere exterior observance of fasts and other penitential rigours. The fire of love that consumed the heart of St. Lutgarde was something vital and positive and its flames burned not only to destroy but to rejuvenate and trans form. It was this love that Christ came to cast upon the earth and which Dom Frederic did so much to enkindle in the Cistercian (Trappist) monasteries of America that came under his influence.
  • This book was written with no other purpose than to help American Catholics to love the Sacred Heart with something of that same purity, and simplicity, and ardour."

1 comment:

RTAV the Byzantine Catholic said...

I am fascinated by the life of Ste. Lutgarde of Aywieres, if not truly humbled (as I should be) by the spiritual import of her life as a renowned Benedictine/Cistercian ecstatic. Indeed, how anxious I am to acquire a copy of Rev. Father Merton's biography of the saint, "What are these Wounds?" Please advise me whether or no any reprint of his work is in the offing. In the meantime, Dom Donald, do favor me with your prayers for the sanctification and salvation of Reginald T. A. de Vore and family, who once enjoyed halcyon days and nights in their adopted homeland of Kentucky, not very far removed from Gethsemane Abbey.