Feast Day: February 25
Walburga, one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, was born in Devonshire, England, the daughter of a West Saxon chieftain and the sister of Saints Willibald and Winebald. At the age of eleven, she entered Wimborne Abbey where she was educated and eventually became a Benedictine nun. In 748, she was sent with St. Lioba to Germany to help St. Boniface in his missionary work. Her brother Winebald, bishop of Eichstatt, appointed her abbess of the Benedictine double monastery at Heidenheim, which he had founded. Walburga served as superior of both men and women until her death.
Walburga had always been surrounded by miracles. She is said to have converted some women from the practice of witchcraft. She served as a doctor and was once guided at night to the home of a dying girl. She stood in the darkness outside the house, not announcing her name or rank. When the girl’s father saw Walburga, surrounded by his fierce guard dogs, he assumed that she was an intruder and warned her that she would be torn to pieces. Walburga answered that she was not afraid, that He who brought her there would take her safely home. The father realized that she was the holy abbess and welcomed her inside. Walburga spent the night praying beside the girl, and in the morning she was completely recovered.
After her death, she was buried first at Heidenheim, Germany. Between 870 and 879 her body was interred next to that of her brother Winebald in the Holy Cross Church at Eichstatt. After the remains were moved, Walburga’s bones began to secrete a manna called “pearls,” a clear, tasteless and odorless liquid described as resembling fresh water and said to have great medicinal powers. For more than 10 centuries, during the months of October through February, this manna – also called an oil – has been collected from St. Walburga’s shrine in Eichstatt, Germany by Benedictine nuns. It is bottled and given out to the faithful, consumed and used as an ointment.
An interesting part of the story of St. Walburga is that she didn’t vanquish witchcraft by persecution but by real miracles from God. Winning over persons who have come under the influence of occult practices can sometimes succeed by opening to them the riches of our Christian faith. The protection of good angels, miraculous healings at shrines, and the intercession of the saints are all spiritual weapons we can use in drawing those in Satanism and witchcraft into God’s kingdom. Through the intercession of St. Walburga, may we attract to the Church all those straying into the realms of evil spiritual forces. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Chervin, Ronda. “Treasury of Women Saints.” Cincinnati: Servant, an imprint of Franciscan Media, 2015.
Gallick, Sarah. “The Big Book of Women Saints.” New York, NY: HarperOne, 2007.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. “The Encyclopedia of Saints.” New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 2001.
Featured Image: “Saint Walburga at Dawn”