Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Feast Day - Christina the Astonishing

Christina the Astonishing

Christina was born at Brusthem in the diocese of Liege, in 1150.

 When she was about twenty-two Christina had a seizure, was assumed to be dead, and  was carried in an open coffin to the church. As the Mass proceeded, Christina sat up, levitated to the beams of the roof, and and sat in the rafters. 

 The priest carried on with the Mass accompanied only by Christina's elder sister. he  then made Christina come down (she had taken refuge up there because she could not bear the smell of sin that people carried on their bodies). She agreed that she had  been dead; that she had gone down to Hell  and  Purgatory and then to Heaven.

Christina fled into remote places, climbed trees and towers and rocks, tearing her clothes off in the process to escape from the smell of humans. She would carry fire 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 fence post or curled up on the ground in such a way that she looked like a ball or animal. She was given to ecstasies during which she led the souls of the recently dead to purgatory, and those in purgatory to paradise.

Not unnaturally, everyone thought she was mad or ‘full of devils,’ and attempts were made to keep her safe, but she always broke loose. 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. I suppose if you had got as far as heaven and were sent back you'd be pretty distressed too.

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.

She is the patron saint of both psychiatrists and the mentally ill. 

 St Christina's Psalm 

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.


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