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Saint Matilda and Her Quarreling Boys


 

In researching mothers who were saints (or at least in the process of canonization), I found over 40 mommies who were holy women. Not all of them made it into my book, Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness. Here is the story and lesson of one of those missing saintly moms – Saint Matilda, patroness of parents with difficult children, whose feast day is today, March 14. May she be an encouragement to you and bring you God’s peace.


 Fast Facts

Feast Day: March 14

Born 869 AD; Died March 14, 968 AD

Patron saint of parents with difficult children

Children: Otto the Great, Henry, St. Bruno, Hedwig, Gerberga

  

Have you ever been so frustrated with your children, you didn’t know what to do? Try praying to Saint Matilda. She understands what you are going through!


Born in 896 A.D., Matilda was raised in a convent by her saintly grandmother, who had become the abbess. It was not uncommon at this time for widows to enter a convent upon the death of their husband and after the raising of their children.


When Matilda was only 15 years old, she was married to Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony. In an age of arranged marriage, Henry and Matilda grew to truly love one another. Henry respected his young wife’s piety and admired her charitable heart. He attributed his victories to her prayers and good works. Henry eventually became the Emperor of Germany.


Matilda was more mother than queen. With a strong sense of justice, she took care of the poor and sick. In imitation of Jesus’ mercy, she often visited prisoners of war and criminals in their confinement, bringing them comfort and hope. These acts flowed from the time she spent in daily prayer. The love of Jesus and the least of His brethren was her motivation.


When Henry died, Matilda gave all the jewelry she was wearing, including her crown, to the priest who said the funeral Mass. She vowed then and there to live for God alone.


Otto, being the first born, succeeded his father as king. The second-born Henry, wanting the throne for himself, massed an army to revolt against his older brother. When Otto successfully put down the revolt, his mother begged for clemency for the younger sibling. Otto relented in his planned punishment.


The one thing both boys could agree on was that their mother was too generous. They criticized her for her extravagant charity. Knowing that the boys sought to dispossess her from the throne, Matilda resigned and moved out to the country. She mused that they at least were finally working together.


However, with his mother gone, Henry tried once again to overtake Otto, who by this time was crowned the new head of the Holy Roman Empire. Otto was having none of it! He was ruthless and severe in his retaliation. Once again, Matilda stepped in. Reprimanding Otto, she then turned to Henry and sadly prophesied his eminent death.


After Henry’s death, Otto once again, but more formally this time, accused his mother of financial mismanagement. Matilda then relinquished all the property and possessions left to her by her husband and moved into a convent that she helped build in Engern, Germany. There, she offered up her prayers and sufferings for the salvation of her children.


Matilda’s declining years were spent in this convent, and after a long illness, she died peacefully. She was buried with her husband. Immediately, her people declared their beloved queen a saint.


Saint Matilda teaches us the cold, hard truth that we may not always be able to help our troubled children.  


It is truly our sacred duty to teach our children and train them in the way they should go (cf. Proverbs 22:6). By word and example, we show them how to love and serve the Lord. As our children get older, teaching becomes guiding, which then becomes advising (when asked).

However, no matter how old our children get, we always pray for them. Following Saint Matilda’s example, we can offer our own sufferings for them, making sacrifices and fasting for more difficult situations. Our children, however, like all of us, have free will. They choose how, even whether, to love God.


Nonetheless, God delights in answering the prayers of a mother for her children. Persevere in prayer and fasting. Matilda’s third son, Bruno, became a saintly bishop, and Otto did revive the Holy Roman Empire. No doubt his mother’s prayers and sacrifices also helped save Henry’s soul.


Ultimately, our children are God’s children. He entrusts them to us for a time. We, in return, entrust them to Him. And God is trustworthy!

 

 Prayer

Heavenly Father, grant peace in our families. Through the intercession of Saint Matilda, may our children rise up to give you praise and glory now and forever. We ask this through Mary’s child, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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