Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Rictrudes, Abbess
THIS mother of saints was a lady of the first quality in France, born in Gascony in 614, and married to Adalbald, one of the principal lords of the court of king Clovis. She had by him four children, who, copying after her example, and being happily educated in her maxims of perfect piety, deserved all to be honoured among the saints: namely, St. Mauront, abbot of Breüil; St. Clotsenda, abbess of Marchiennes; St. Eusebia, or Isoye, abbess of Hamay; and St. Adalsenda, a nun at Hamay. So great a benediction does the sanctity of parents draw upon a whole family. St. Amand being banished into the southern parts of France, Rictrudes finding him to be truly a man of God, committed herself entirely to his direction to walk with fervour in the paths of evangelical perfection. The death of her husband, who was assassinated in his return from his estates in Flanders, not only set her at liberty, but was a powerful means to wean her heart perfectly from the world. Thus the most grievous temporal affliction proved her greatest spiritual blessing. She was yet young, and exceedingly rich; and king Clovis II. sought, even by threats, to oblige her to marry one of his favourite courtiers. However, she maintained her ground, and at length was permitted to receive the religious veil from the hands of St. Amand. She had before this founded an abbey of monks on a marshy ground in her estate of Marchiennes, under the direction of St. Amand. Being now a widow, she built a separate monastery for nuns in the same place, which she governed herself forty years. She was clad with rough hair-cloth, and fasted, watched, and prayed almost without intermission. She sighed continually after the goods of the heavenly Jerusalem; for, as St. Bernard says:1 Thou desirest not sufficiently the joys to come if thou dost not daily ask them with tears. Thou knowest them not, if thy soul doth not refuse all comfort till they come. When the film with which the love of the world covers the eye of the soul is removed, by a perfect disengagement of the heart from its toys, then she sees and feels the weight of her distance from her God. And till she can be drowned in the ocean of his love, she finds no other comfort in her banishment but in the contemplation of his goodness, and in sighs excited by his love. Rictrudes, that she might more freely pursue these exercises, which were the delight of her heart, resigned her superiority some time before her happy death, which happened on the 12th of May, 688, she being seventy-four years old. This nunnery was abolished, and its revenues given to the monks in the same place, in 1028. The body of St. Rictrudes is honourably entombed in the church of that great Benedictin abbey. Her name is inserted in many monastic and local calendars, and several churches and altars have been formerly erected in Flanders under her invocation, mentioned by Papebroke. In the church of St. Amatus at Douay, in the chapel of St. Mauront, among the statues of the saints of his family the third is that of St. Rictrudes. Her life was compiled by Hucbald, a learned monk of St. Amands, in 907. Surius altered the style; but this is restored to its original integrity by Mabillon (Act. Bened. t. 2, p. 938), and Papebroke the Bollandist, who has enhanced the value of this work by judicious remarks (t. 3, Maij, p. 80), and has added several long histories of her miracles compiled by several monks of St. Marchiennes and St. Amands in different ages.