Saint Walburga

Feast Day : 25 February

Saint Walburga was born in 710 in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex in southern England.  Her parents, St. Richard and Wuna, prayed with their family of at least six children at the cross on their country estate.  It is highly possible that the noble Walburga was educated at Wimborne, a famous Wessex monastery, and took vows there.

In 720 her father and two elder brothers set off as pilgrims to Rome.  St. Richard died at Lucca, Italy, but the youths reached Rome where St. Wunibald (c.701-761) became a monk, while St. Willibald (c.700-787) went on to the Holy Land.  When Abbess of Heidenheim, St. Walburga chose her nun Huneberc, a kinswoman, to write their biographies.  Thus we discover that her great kinsman was St. Boniface (c.675-754), the Apostle of Germany, who needed missionaries.  In 741 he created the diocese of Eichstätt, consecrating St. Willibald, also a Benedictine monk, as its first bishop.  In 752 Walburga’s family founded a monastery at nearby Heidenheim with St. Wunibald as its abbot.

Probably in the 740s the zealous St. Walburga left England to aid the work of evangelization.  Perhaps she went to Tauberbischofsheim where St. Lioba, the Wimborne-educated abbess and fellow kinswoman of St. Boniface, was.  When St. Wunibald died in 761, she was asked to become abbess of Heidenheim.  Obediently she came with some nuns to face the difficult task of ruling both monks and nuns.  One dark night, according to a legend significantly derived from a living tradition, she went alone to a noble’s home, prayed all night at this dying child’s bedside and by dawn the girl was healed.  Prayerfully and patiently she persevered until her death on February 25, 779 and was buried at Heidenheim.

During the 870s, St. Walburga’s remains were solemnly brought to Eichstätt for re-interment in the cathedral beside St. Willibald’s.  However, the oxen drawing the cart refused to go further than a small church to which some canonesses were attached.  This was taken as a sign from God, and there she was interred.  In 893 as some of her relics were being transferred elsewhere a cripple, on touching the holy reliquary, was healed and devotion to her developed rapidly.  In 1035 the Eichstätt canonesses were replaced by the foundation of Abtei St. Walburg, a Benedictine monastery of nuns existing to our own day, and over the centuries countless pilgrims have prayed at her shrine.  From the 1850s these nuns have founded daughter houses in the U.S.A. and England, and devotion to her has spread far and wide.  She is renowned for her powerful and compassionate intercession on behalf of the sick, the dying, the distressed and all who pray with deep faith.

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