October 15, 2017

Saint Hedwig of Silesia, Patroness of Poland

Saint Hedwig of Silesia

Optional Memorial - October 16th

Saint Hedwig, the aunt of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, was married at an early age and raised seven children. When her husband died in 1238, she took the habit of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz (where one of her daughters was the abbess), but retained her property so that she could give relief to the suffering.

Hedwig was born in 1174 in Bavaria, the daughter of the Duke of Croatia. She was the maternal aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and married Henry, Duke of Silesia. After their six children were born, they both strove to advance in sanctity and to enrich Silesia and Poland with monasteries, hospitals, and leper asylums. 

She outlived all but one of her children, Gertrude. Hedwig persuaded her husband to use her dowry to found a Cisterian monastery for nuns at Trebnitz, that would be a center of prayer. Their daughter Gertrude became abbess of the monastery.

Hedwig led a life of piety and solicitude for the sick and poor, including their religious education. She lived a life of poverty and humility, despite her prominent position. Every day, even in winter, she would walk barefooted, so her feet were in bad shape. A story tells us her husband sent her a pair of shoes, insisting that she not be without them — so she kept them under her arm. 

After the death of her husband, Hedwig completely renounced the world and entered the monastery of Trebnitz which she had founded. She died on October 15, 1243 and is venerated as patroness of Poland. She is not to be confused with Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland (1371-1399), canonized by Saint John Paul II. Grant, we pray, almighty God, that the revered intercession of Saint Hedwig may bring us heavenly aid, just as her wonderful life is an example of humility for all. 


Cyrille said...

This St. Hedwig is not the patroness of Poland.

Br. Bartholomew Joseph said...

Patron saints may achieve that designation by official decree of the Universal Church or by the historical affiliation of a saint with a particular nation or people. (This includes local cults of veneration invoking that saint’s intercession and protection.)

Saint Hedwig of Silesia, the patroness of Poland, belongs to the later category, see HERE and HERE (in Polish). She is not to be confused with St. Hedwig, Queen of Poland, (1371-1399) who St. John Paul II canonized in 1997.