Saint of the Day|
Sometimes a happy marriage can still end in divorce
Two sisters, whose marriages dissolved, founded convents
By Tony Staley
We live in an age when the dissolution of marriages is far too
common, even with recent decreases in the divorce rate. Despite
how frequently marriages end, most of us feel regret when hearing
such news, particularly if we know the couple well.
Having a marriage end through divorce is difficult enough, but
what about a couple who does't want their marriage to end, but it
must end for reasons beyond their control, such as death? Or what
about a marriage that outside forces terminate despite the wishes
of the couple? What happens then?
Such was the case for St. Teresa of Portugal, who was born about
three-fourths of the way through the 12th century and who died
midway through the 13th century.
Teresa was the eldest daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal. She
also was the sister of Ss. Mafalda and Sanchia.
Teresa was married to King Alfonso IX of León - her cousin, a
common practice for many centuries. They had several children and
were apparently happy, until their marriage was declared invalid
because they were related to each other.
Teresa returned to Portugal and her estate at Lorvao, where she
converted a Benedictine monastery into a convent where the nuns
followed the Cistercian rule. The community proved so popular
that she had the convent expanded to accommodate 300 nuns. Though
not a nun herself, she lived there.
Then, in about 1231, she was asked by Berengaria - the second
wife of King Alfonso and his widow - to help resolve a dispute
among their children over who should be the king of León. After
working out an agreement, she returned to Lorvao and probably
became a nun. She died in 1250. We celebrate her feast on June
Interestingly, her sister, Mafalda (1204-1252), had a similar
experience. When she was 11, she married King Henry I of Castile.
But their marriage also was dissolved because they were too
closely related. She became a Benedictine nun at Arouca Convent,
and convinced the community to switch to the Cistercian rule. She
used her inheritance to build a hostel for travelers and to
restore the Oporto Cathedral. We celebrate her feast on May 2.
The third sister-saint, Sanchia, was born in 1182. She retired to
her father's estate after his death in 1211 and helped support
the fledgling Franciscan and Dominican foundations in Portugal.
She founded an Augustinian convent at Celles, but, like her
sisters, switched it to the Cistercian rule in 1223 and became a
nun there. She died in 1229. We also celebrate her feast on June
The three sisters remind us that we are called to lives of
sanctity, no matter what our vocations may be.
(Sources: Dictionary of Saints, Lives of the Saints and 365 Saints.)