From fancy clothes to visions and levitation
13th century mystic spoke with Christ as if he were standing there in the room
By Tony Staley
Where: Belgium and France
What: Mystic and nun
Feast: June 16
When it comes to mystics - those persons who have a special personal experience of the divine - several are well known. They include St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross, St. Julian of Norwich and Hildegarde of Bingen.
But what about St. Lutgardis, who is considered one of the leading mystics of the 13th century?
Lutgardis was born in 1182 at Tongres, Brabant, which is now a province of Belgium. When she was 12, her family sent her to St. Catherine Benedictine Convent near Saint-Trond, possibly because her father lost her dowry in a bad business deal, making marriage virtually impossible.
She was attractive, fond of nice clothes and liked to enjoy herself. She lived in the convent for several years without having much interest in religious life. Indeed, the convent seemed to be pretty much a boarding house for her. She could come and go as she pleased and received visitors of both sexes.
All that changed one day, when Jesus appeared to her while she was visiting with a friend. He showed her the wounds in his hands and side and asked her to love only him. The 20-year-old Lutgardis decided immediately to become a Benedictine nun.
Some of the sisters predicted that her change in behavior wouldn't last. Instead, she became even more devout. Over the next dozen years, she had many visions of Jesus, Mary and several saints.
Her visions of Christ appeared so real to her that she talked to him. If she was asked to do something during an apparition, she would say, "Wait here, Lord Jesus, and I will come back directly after I have finished this task." She also levitated and dripped blood when meditating on Jesus' Passion.
Because of her holiness, the members of her convent wanted to make her their abbess. She refused and decided to follow an even stricter rule, so she joined the French Cistercian convent at Aywières, where she lived for the next 30 years.
She never mastered French, but was widely known at this convent for her spiritual wisdom, miracles of healing and prophecies.
For the last 11 years of her life, she was blind. Shortly before her death, Jesus again appeared to her and told her to prepare to die by: praising God for all the gifts she had received, praying for the conversion of sinners and relying on God for everything. She died as night office was beginning.
(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and 365 Saints)