Saint Lydwina of Schiedam
Saint Lydwina was born in Holland of virtuous but poor parents, the only daughter among nine children. Her name means suffer in plenitude, and indeed her entire life was nothing but a continuous suffering. Even in the cradle a grievous illness afflicted her.
At twelve years of age her beauty was admired by all; her father wanted her to marry, but she told him she had already given herself to the divine Spouse of virgins. When at the age of fifteen she fell on the ice, she suffered a broken rib; and this injury, spreading, it would seem, to other parts of her body, reduced her to the state of an invalid for the last thirty-eight years of her life. For seventeen years, she could move no part of her body except, very slightly, her head and left arm. For a long time she could scarcely take any nourishment, and finally could no longer support any food at all. In this state she remained for nineteen years.
After her mother's death, she sold the furnishings she had inherited to give the price to the poor; and all the alms she received were also given to them. A purse containing money which she had placed there to pay the debts of one of her brothers who had died with many orphaned children and many unpaid obligations, was never afterwards found without at least forty francs, regardless of the amount distributed.
All the most dreaded illnesses seemed to have joined together to persecute Saint Lydwina, that she might endure in every one of the conjoined parts of her body, all that it could possibly bear. Despite her wounds, she was surrounded by an agreeable fragrance. Our Lord kept Lydwina company in her sufferings, and at times transported her in spirit elsewhere; she saw the pains of the damned and those of the souls in purgatory. For the latter she prayed much and delivered many, having suffered their torments for them. Our Saviour granted her His stigmata, but she prayed that they might remain invisible, in order not to derive any attention from them.
He taught us all a lesson through His Saint, when she became too afflicted by the death of a dear brother. He sent to her a holy hermit to tell her that the servants of Christ must be purified from the too tender affections of human nature, even though these are not unreasonable and are not condemned by Holy Scripture.
She was permitted to receive Holy Communion every two weeks, as it was observed that this gave her strength; and when she was nearing her end, four or five times a week that consolation was granted her. After the death of this servant of God on April 14, 1433 her body which had been covered with ulcers and deformed became straight and very beautiful. She was buried in the parish church of Saint John the Baptist in Schiedam. Her relics were later taken to Brussels and placed in the collegial church of Saint Gudule. Her life was written by three persons who knew her personally, and an abridged life was prepared by Thomas a Kempis.