Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Yesterday was first full day of spring and it snowed. The emerging scilla** and daffodils were all covered in fat wet snow. That is not strange. What is strange is that yesterday was also the feast of not 1 or 2, but 3 different saints who gave up on marriage and chose to leave wife and children in order to live in a monastery or convent or up in the hills eating bugs. (I consider this a troubling tendency.)
St Enda of Arran (d. ca. 530) was an Irish prince who was converted by his sister Fanchea, also a saint-to-be. She found him a good convent girl to marry, but when he met her she was dead *and this put him off marriage permanently. In this way he became a monk and ultimately the founder of Irish monasticism.
St Nicholas of Flüe (1417-1487) was a successful farmer who also served as a counselor and judge in his Swiss canton. He had a wife and presumably he liked her well enough because they had ten children. But after a vision of a horse eating a lily, he went up into the hills to live as a hermit, surviving on nothing but the Eucharist for 19 years. (Among saints, this is a common enough form of nourishment that there is a word for it: inedia.) To this day, St Nicholas is beloved in Switzerland and regarded as a patron saint of the sustainable use of open land.
St Benedicta Cambiagio Frassinello (1791-1858) was married for 2 years before she managed to convince her husband that that should live chastely, which they did until her little sister died, and then she joined a convent and her husband became a monk.
* I particularly enjoy imagining how this scene transpired. At what point was it clear that the affianced girl was in fact a corpse? Was it commonplace for a betrothed young lady to neither breathe nor move?
**I associate scilla with the blue pollen the bees starting gathering this time of year, and I am concerned lest they are discouraged.