Spotlight on the Saints
Saint Bathildes, Queen of France
January 30 (A.D. 680)
St. Bathildes was an Englishwoman, who was taken to France when she was very young, and sold for a very low price as a slave to Erkenwald, mayor of the palace under King Clovis II. When she grew up, King Clovis was very much taken with her prudence and virtue and he assigned her to the care of his household. She was in no way flattered, but seemed even more modest, more submissive to her fellow-slaves, and always ready to serve the meanest of them.
In 649, King Clovis II took her for his royal consort. He received the applause of his princes and whole kingdom, as they all knew of her extraordinary endowments. This unexpected elevation, which would have turned the strongest head of a person addicted to pride, produced no alteration in a heart perfectly grounded in
humility and other virtues. She seemed even to become more humble than before, and more tender to the poor. All her other virtues appeared more conspicuous in her, but above the rest an ardent zeal for religion.
The king gave her the sanction of his royal authority for the protection of the Church, the care of the poor, and the furtherance of all religious undertakings. She bore him three sons, who all successively wore the crown Clotaire III, Childeric II, and Thierry I. King Clovis II died in 655, when his eldest son was only five years old. This left Bathildes as regent of the kingdom.
With great pains, she banished simony out of France, forbade Christians to be made slaves, did all in her power to promote piety, and filled France with hospitals and pious foundations. She restored the monasteries of Saint Martin, Saint Denys, Saint Medard, etc., founded the great Abbey of Corbie for a seminary of virtue and sacred learning, and the truly royal nunnery of Chelles, on the Marne, which had been begun by Saint Clotildis.
In 665, as soon as her son Clotaire was of an age to govern, with great joy she shut herself up in the monastery of Chelles a happiness which she had long earnestly desired, though it was with great difficulty that she obtained the consent of the princes. She had no sooner taken the veil than she seemed to have forgotten entirely her former dignity, and was only to be distinguished from the rest by her extreme
humility, serving them in the lowest offices, and obeying the holy abbess, Saint Bertilla, as the last among the sisters. She prolonged her devotions every day with many tears, and made it her greatest delight to visit and attend the sick, whom she comforted and served with wonderful charity.
Saint Owen, in his Life of Saint Eligius, mentions many instances of the great veneration which Saint Bathildes bore that holy prelate, and relates that Saint Eligius, after his death, in a vision by night, ordered a certain courtier to reprove the queen for wearing jewels and costly apparel in her widowhood, which she did not out of pride, but because she thought it due to her state whilst she was regent of the kingdom.
Upon this admonition she laid them aside, distributed a great part to the poor, and with the richest of her jewels made a most beautiful and sumptuous cross, which she placed at the head of the tomb of Saint Eligius. She was afflicted with long and severe colics and other ailments, which she suffered with an admirable resignation and joy. In her agony she recommended to her sisters charity, care of the poor, fervor, and perseverance, and gave up her soul in devout prayer on January 30, 680, on which day she is honored in France, but is named on the 26th in the Roman Martyrology.
A Christian who seriously considers that he is to live here but a moment, and will live eternally in the world to come, must confess that it is a part of wisdom to refer all his actions and views to prepare himself for that everlasting dwelling. Our only and necessary affair is to live for God, to do His will, and to sanctify and save our souls. If we are employed in exterior business, we must imitate Saint Bathildes, when she bore the whole weight of the state. In all we do, God and His holy will must be always before our eyes, and to please Him must be our only aim and desire. Reducing all our desires to the one of doing what God requires of us, we must call Blessed Mary to our assistance. While our hands are at work, our mind and heart ought to be interiorly employed on God, at least virtually, so that all our works may be animated with the spirit of piety: and hours of repose must always be contrived to pass at the feet of Jesus, where in the silence of all creatures we may listen to His sweet voice, refresh in Him our wearied souls, and renew our fervor.