Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Walter and Waldo, but not Jutta
I was going to tell you about Saint Jutta, whom I have designated as the patron saint of frumpy clothes, but it just so happens that the person most in need of such a patron saint has catapulted herself from the frumpy ranks directly into the celestial orbit of the red hot and sexy, thanks to the first-in-fifteen-years purchase of a fancy dress. So I needn’t tell you about the admirable life of Saint Jutta (11th century), patroness of Prussia. First her husband remonstrated with her for the homeliness of her attire. Then he died on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Next it was her children who objected to her raggedy clothes and unshod feet, to no avail. She gave away everything she owned, had visions and died a recluse.
What part of this qualifies as a miracle?
Since I am precluded from expatiating about Jutta I will mention a couple of other remarkable characters:
Saint Walter, was born at the castle of Conflation during the Vienna Waltz, the chief chair of his family. While a young monk Walter went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and one hungry day a strange bird (are not all birds strange depending on your point of view, and are not we all strange to the birds?) dropped at young Walter’s feet a fish so heavy that Walter could not lift it from the ground. A strange bird indeed.
Another thing to admire about Saint Walter: he had no truck with self-righteousness. Given the saintly propensity for just that, this is especially remarkable. In the course of one long day Walter and his companions were so absorbed in their tasks, and so hungry, that they forgot it was Friday and cooked up some meat. Even realizing the day Walter let his companions continue eating, assuming that St Martin, whose feast it was, would be lenient on this point. But not Edlebert, the rigorist in the group. He chastised them soundly for eating meat, more vehemently than any vegetarian you know. The next day Edlebert lost a vast sum of money, which is related as an example of divine retribution for self-righteousness.
For twenty years Blessed Waldo lived alone inside a hollow chestnut tree, until he didn’t, and then he was dead. (The European chestnuts are Castanea sativa, and are not to be confused with the horse chestnuts next to my drive, the Aesculpus.) To put this in perspective, you should know there are chestnut trees on the slopes of Mount Etna with a circumference greater than 50 feet. Which gives you an area of about 220 square feet, which is about the size of some Manhattan studio apartments for which people pay serious money.