Today is the Feast of St. Christina – one of the more colourful of 13th century saints.
Christina The Astonishing from Butler’s
Lives of the Saints
Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (A.D. 1224)
Christina was born at Brusthem in the diocese of Liege, in 1150, and at the age of fifteen was left an orphan, with two elder sisters. When she was about twenty-two Christina had a seizure, was assumed to be dead, and in due course was carried in an open coffin to the church, where a Mass of requiem was begun. Suddenly, after the Agnus Dei, Christina sat up, soared to the beams of the roof, and there perched herself. Everyone fled from the church except her elder sister, who, though thoroughly frightened, gave a good example of recollection to the others by stopping till the end of Mass. The priest then made Christina come down (it was said that she had taken refuge up there because she could not bear the smell of sinful human bodies). She averred that she had actually been dead; that she had gone down to Hell and there recognized many friends, and to Purgatory, where she had seem more friends, and then to Heaven.
This was only the beginning of a series of hardly less incredible occurrences. Christina fled into remote places, climbed trees and towers and rocks, and crawled into ovens, to escape from the smell of humans. She would handle fire with impunity and, in the coldest weather, dash into the river, or into a mill-race and be carried unharmed under the wheel. She prayed balancing herself on the top of a hurdle or curled up on the ground in such a way that she looked like a ball. Not unnaturally, everyone thought she was mad or ‘full of devils,’ and attempts were made to confine her, but she always broke loose. Eventually she was caught by a man who had to give her a violent blow on the leg to do it, and it was thought her leg was broken. She was therefore taken to the house of a surgeon in Liege, who put splints on the limb and chained her to a pillar for safety. She escaped in the nights. On one occasion when a priest, not knowing her and frightened by her appearance, had refused to give her communion, she rushed wildly through the streets, jumped into the Meuse, and swam away. She lived by begging, dressed in rags, and behaved in a terrifying manner.
The last years of her life Christina passed in the convent of St. Catherine at Saint-Trond, and there she died at the age of seventy-four. Even while she lived there some who regarded her with great respect. Louis, Count of Looz, treated her as a friend, welcoming her to his castle, accepting her rebukes, and on his deathbed insisting on manifesting his conscience to her. Blessed Mary of Oignies had regard for her, the prioress of St. Catherine’s praised her obedience, and St. Lutgardis sought her advice.
The Song of Christina
In the Psalms it is known as a Prayer of the afflicted, when she is overwhelmed and poureth out her complaint before the Lord
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.
Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.
For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.
My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.
I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.
For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,
Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.
My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.