Today was at one time the feast of St Frideswide (+727), an Anglo-Saxon ascetic and Abbess from near Oxford.
Her relics lie today in Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral, Oxford.
Despite having consecrated herself to a life of virginity for Christ, St Frideswide was pursued by a wealthy suitor.
When he was struck down by blindness, St Frideswide demonstrated true Christian love and prayed for his sight to return. After his sight was restored, he let the virgin be.
Many other miracles are associated with her, including the healing of a leper.
GLAD was that myght with hure speke other to hure gon.
Of hure holy lyf me told fer and eke nere,
Into alle Englonde that me wyste nas yholde hure pere. […]
As heo yede a day in the toune, a mysel heo mette.
To hure the mysel felle adoune, and on knes hure grette,
And bysoght that lady that heo hym cusse scholde.
Heo custe hym, and he was hole, ryght as God hit wolde.
Fele miracles by hure lyve of hure weren ycude,
And suth after hure deth; hii neren noght yhud.
Heo wend out of this world a morwe up Lukes day.
Now God ous bringe to the blysse that He broght that may!
ANYONE who spoke with her or went to see her was glad of it.
The tale of her holy life was told near and far,
Until no one known in England was held to be her equal. […]
As she walked one day in town, a leper met her.
The leper fell down before her, and on his knees hailed her,
And begged that lady to kiss him.
She kissed him, and he was made whole, just as God wished it.
Many miracles were known of her during her life
And so also after her death; they were not hidden.
She went out of this world on the day after St Luke’s day.
Now may God bring us to the joy where He brought that maiden!
From the Shorter Life of St Frideswide, in the “South English Legendary”, roughly 13th century.
The original Latin version of this Biography “seems to have been composed for monastic reading and includes a number of authentic-sounding details about Frideswide and her historical context” says Sherry L. Reames (see The Legend of Frideswide of Oxford). This Middle English version likewise “takes for granted such values as literacy, asceticism, virginity, and marriage to God rather than an earthly king”.
St Frideswide evidently felt an affinity for St Margaret (Marina) of Antioch, who was martyred after a similarly unwelcome suitor had exposed her Christian faith during the Roman persecutions of the 3rd century.
Below is a prayer from the liturgy for St Margaret’s day, July 17.
THOU didst preserve thy soul and body virgin for God, and offered thine acclaimed struggle as an all-honourable gift, O glorious one, and wast conducted unto that Bridechamber which is visible to the heart’s eye, singing in celebration: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord.