The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 25, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

Going into the family monastery

St. Mechtildis' parents founded religious house, but God chose her calling


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

It's not uncommon for parents and children to talk about going into the family business. But when the family business is a monastery, that's unusual. Or, in the case of St. Mechtildis of Edelstetten, doubly unusual.

St. Mechtildis was born in about 1125 in Bavaria. Her parents were Count Berthold of Andechs and Sophia. When Mechtildis was five, her parents placed her in the double monastery they had founded on their estate at Diessen, Bavaria.

Under the tutelage of the nuns, Mechtildis grew up devout and prayerful. Eventually, she became a Benedictine nun and was elected abbess at a young age after the superior died.

Her reputation for holiness spread. When she was 28, the Bishop of Augsburg appointed her abbess of Edelstetten and told her to reform the convent. Despite her protests that she was too young for the job and unable to cope with the problems that awaited her, she eventually accepted the appointment after receiving instructions from Pope Anastasius IV.

At first, her new community welcomed her, probably at least in part because of her youth and her noble heritage.

As often happens in such cases, she met a great deal of resistance when she began to impose discipline, as she had been instructed to do. Indeed were it not for the resistance, the reform probably would not have been necessary.

Among the measures she took were an insistence that the nuns observe the Benedictine rule, that the enclosure of the convent be followed, especially the rule denying admission to visitors who came with news and gossip.

Now we live in a different world and most convents invite people to send in their requests for prayers for many causes. Recently, a Carmelite monastery in Indiana even started a web site, www.praythenews.com, where people are invited to join them in praying for current events.

She was able to succeed after the bishop expelled the main troublemakers and she soon won over the other sisters.

In addition to her reputation for holiness and administrative skills, Mechtildis became well-know for miracles of healing, including restoration of speech and vision, and her mystical trances or ecstasies that would often last for hours.

She was considered a model of religious life.

Shortly before her death in 1160, Mechtildis resigned as abbess and returned to Diessen. She died on May 31, the day on which we celebrate her feast.

St. Mechtildis should remind us that whether we are a priest, religious, married or single, we are all called to enter our Father's business of love and service to others.


(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints; Dictionary of Saints; and 365 Saints.)


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