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Saints - Really?

Nobody is more surprised than me to learn I am probably related to, and even descended from, actual Saints.

I say probably because any data from 1,000 years ago is suspect but also because history has a way of being re-written to suit those who write it or are in a position of power.

Back then there were perhaps 25 million people living in Europe and only a handful were literate. The first reliable census data that included names was still over 800 years in the future.

While there is little doubt these people did exist, I’ll leave it to the scholars out there to decide on the accuracy of the ancient genealogists’ work.

Saint Margaret (Athling) of Scotland was my 28x great grandmother. She born about 1045 in Hungary and died 16 November 1093 in Scotland. Born of an English father and German mother, Margaret travelled with them as a child, emigrating to England in 1057 where her father Edward Athling was to have been made King. After his untimely death that same year and the win for William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings in 1066, the family finally fled to Scotland in 1070.

When Margaret and her family arrived in Scotland in 1070, King Malcolm greeted them graciously. Margaret had hoped to become a nun and devote her life to the Church, but Malcolm had other plans. He courted her and she, aware of the power for good that the position of Queen of Scotland could give her, agreed to his proposal of marriage. They were married when Margaret was 24 and Malcolm almost 40.

Her first act as Queen was to build a great church dedicated to the Holy Trinity at Dunfermline, the site of their wedding.

For 23 years, Malcolm and Margaret ruled Scotland. Margaret was deeply pious and taught Malcolm the ways of prayer and charity. His political preoccupation continued to be invading England while she, with his consent, built schools, established abbeys, and personally cared for pilgrims and the poor by distributing money for food with her own hands. The coins shown in her hand symbolize her very great charity.

The book Margaret is holding represents one of her most treasured possessions -- a Gospel Book ornamented with gold and precious jewels. This book was said to have been dropped in a river and, when rediscovered much later, showed no damage. Its miraculous preservation was attributed to Margaret's holiness.

Margaret saw that the Church in Scotland had fallen into lax ways. As Queen, she prompted the Scottish clergy to hold church councils to bring Scottish practices into line with disciplines of Rome. With her encouragement, abuses were curtailed, the proper ritual of the Mass re-established, and the rules for Lenten fasting and Easter Communion restored. Her zeal inspired a return to the religious and ecclesiastical observances that were common practice in England and on the continent of Europe, both places where she had lived.

As a Christian wife and mother, Margaret trained her eight children in the ways of God. Her daughter Editha married Henry I and became known as Good Queen Maud of England for her holy ways. Her son Ethelred became an abbot. As Kings of Scotland, her three youngest sons "carried on her policies, inaugurating a golden age for Scotland that lasted 200 years". The youngest of these sons of Margaret and Malcolm, King David of Scotland, was also canonized as a saint.

It was during one of his invasions of England that Malcolm and his oldest son Edward were killed in battle in November of 1093. Margaret had been sick for some time, and she died just a few days after her husband and son.

She was canonized as Saint Margaret in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV, and her feast day is the date of her death, November 16. She is the patron Saint of Dunfermline, Scotland, the Queen’s Ferry, and Anglo-Scottish relations.    (top)

Saint Begga is my 41x great grandmother. She born about 615 in Austrasia (now western Europe) and died 17 December 693.

She is the daughter of Pepin of Landen, mayor of the palace of Austrasia, and his wife Itta. Begga was married and had two sons, Pepin II and Martin of Laon.

On the death of her husband Ansegisel, she took the veil, founded several churches, and built a convent at Andenne on the Meuse River (Andenne sur Meuse) where she spent the rest of her days as abbess. She was buried in Saint Begga's Collegiate Church in Andenne.

She is commemorated as a Saint on her feast days, 6 September and 17 December.   (Top)

Saint Wenceslas I is my 33x gt grand uncle. He was born around 907 in Prague, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) and died on 28 September 935 in Bohemia, murdered by Tira, Čsta, and Hněvsa on orders from his brother Boleslaw.

His parents were Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and Dragomir, a heathen. He received a good Christian education from his grandmother (St. Ludmilla) and at Budweis. After the death of Wratislaw, Dragomir, acting as regent, opposed Christianity, and Wenceslaus, being urged by the people, took the reins of government.

He placed his duchy under the protection of Germany, introduced German priests, and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic, which had gone into disuse in many places for want of priests. Wenceslaus had taken the vow of virginity and was known for his virtues.

The Emperor Otto I conferred on him the regal dignity and title. For religious and national motives, and at the instigation of his mother Dragomir, Wenceslaus’ murder was arranged by his brother Boleslaw. The body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of murder, but three years later Boleslaw, having repented of his deed, ordered its translation to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague.

His feast is celebrated on 28 September. He is the Patron Saint of Bohemia, Czechia, and Prague.

Wenceslas is the subject of the popular Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslas".    (top)

Saint Ludmila of Bohemia is my 35x gt. Grand-mother. She was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) around AD860 and died in Bohemia 15 September 921. She was the grandmother of Saint Wenceslas mentioned above.

Saint Ludmila is a saint and martyr venerated by the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches. She was born in Melník as daughter of a Slavic prince Slavibor. Saint Ludmila was the grandmother of Saint Wenceslaus, who is widely referred to as Good King Wenceslaus.

Ludmila was married to Borivoj I of Bohemia, who was the first Christian Duke of Bohemia. The couple was converted to Christianity around 871. Their efforts to convert Bohemia to Christianity were initially not well received, and they were driven from their country for a time by the pagans. Eventually the couple returned, and ruled for several years before retiring to Tetín, near Beroun.

The couple was succeeded by their son Spytihnev, who ruled for two years before he died. Spytihněv was succeeded by his brother Vratislav. When Vratislav died in 921, his eight year old son Wenceslas became the next ruler of Bohemia. It was mainly Ludmila who raised her grandson.

Wenceslaus' mother Drahomíra became jealous of Ludmila's influence over Wenceslaus. She had two noblemen murder Ludmila at Tetín, and part of Ludmila's story says that she was strangled with her veil. Initially Saint Ludmila was buried at St. Michael's at Tetín. Sometime before the year 1100 her remains were removed to the church of St. George at Prague, Czech Republic.

Saint Ludmila is venerated as a patroness of Bohemia. Her feast day is celebrated on September 18. She is considered to be a Patron Saint of Bohemia, converts, Czech Republic, duchesses, problems with in-laws, and widows. She was canonized shortly after her death.   (top)

Saint Arnulf of Metz is my 42x great grandfather. He was born about AD582 in what is now France and died 18 July 640 in France. He was a Frankish bishop of Metz and advisor to the Merovingian court of Austrasia, who retired to the Abbey of Remiremont.

His father was Baudgise or Baudegisel II of Aquitaine or Carthage (d. 588), Palace Mayor and Duke of Sueve. His mother was Oda. In his younger years he was called to the Merovingian court of king Theudebert II (595-612) of Austrasia and sent to serve as dux at the Schelde. Later he became bishop of Metz. During his career he was attracted to religious life, and he retired to become a monk.

He retired around 628 to a hermitage at a mountain site in the Vosges, to realize his lifelong resolution to become a monk and a hermit. His friend Romaric, whose parents were killed by Brunhilda, had preceded him to the mountains and together with Amatus had already established Remiremont Abbey there. Arnulf settled there, and remained there until his death twelve years later.

There are three legends associated with Arnulf:

The Legend of the Ring (not like the movies)

Arnulf was tormented by the violence that surrounded him and feared that he had played a role in the wars and murders that plagued the ruling families.

Obsessed by these sins, Arnulf went to a bridge over the Moselle river. There he took off his bishop’s ring and threw it into the river, praying to God to give him a sign of absolution by returning the ring to him. Many penitent years later, a fisherman brought to the bishop’s kitchen a fish in the stomach of which was found the bishop’s ring.

Arnulf repaid the sign of God by immediately retiring as bishop and becoming a hermit for the remainder of his life.

The Legend of the Fire

At the moment Arnulf resigned as bishop, a fire broke out in the cellars of the Royal Palace and threatened to spread throughout the city of Metz. Arnulf, full of courage and feeling unity with the townspeople, stood before the fire and said, “If God wants me to be consumed, I am in His hands.” He then made the sign of the cross at which point the fire immediately receded.

The Legend of the Beer Mug (my personal favourite)

 It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop. They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable.

At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.”

Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.

Arnulf was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. In iconography he is portrayed with a rake in his hand. In French he is also known as Arnoul or Arnoulf. In English he is also known as Arnold. (top)