St. Maud, or Mathildis, Queen of Germany
From her life, written forty years after her death, by the order of St. Henry; Acta Sanct. t. 7. p. 361.
THIS princess was daughter of Theodoric, a powerful Saxon count. Her parents, being sensible that piety is the only true greatness, placed her very young in the monastery of Erford, of which her grandmother Maud, who had renounced the world in her widowhood, was then abbess. Here our saint acquired an extraordinary relish for prayer and spiritual reading; and learned to work at her needle, and to employ all the precious moments of life in something serious and worthy the great end of her creation. She remained in that house an accomplished model of all virtues, till her parents married her to Henry, son of Otho, duke of Saxony, in 913. Her husband, surnamed the Fowler, from his fondness for the diversion of hawking, then much in vogue, became duke of Saxony by the death of his father, in 916; and in 919, upon the death of Conrad, was chosen king of Germany. He was a pious and victorious prince, and very tender of his subjects. His solicitude in easing their taxes, made them ready to serve their country in his wars at their own charges, though he generously recompensed their zeal after his expeditions, which were always attended with success. Whilst he, by his arms, checked the insolence of the Hungarians and Danes, and enlarged his dominions by adding to them Bavaria, Maud gained domestic victories over her spiritual enemies, more worthy of a Christian, and far greater in the eyes of heaven. She nourished the precious seeds of devotion and humility in her heart by assiduous prayer and meditation; and, not content with the time which the day afforded for these exercises, employed part of the night the same way. The nearer the view was which she took of worldly vanities, the more clearly she discovered their emptiness and dangers, and sighed to see men pursue such bubbles to the loss of their souls; for, under a fair outside, they contain nothing but poison and bitterness. 1
It was her delight to visit, comfort, and exhort the sick and the afflicted; to serve and instruct the poor, teaching them the advantages of their state from the benedictions and example of Christ; and to afford her charitable succours to prisoners, procuring them their liberty where motives of justice would permit it; or at least easing the weight of their chains by liberal alms; but her chief aim was to make them shake off their sins by sincere repentance. Her husband, edified by her example, concurred with her in every pious undertaking which she projected. Alter twenty-three years’ marriage, God was pleased to call the king to himself by an apoplectic fit, in 936. Maud, during his sickness, went to the Church to pour forth her soul in prayer for him at the foot of the altar. As soon as she understood, by the tears and cries of the people, that he had expired, she called for a priest who was fasting, to offer the holy sacrifice for his soul; and at the same time cut off the jewels which she wore, and gave them to the priest, as a pledge that she renounced from that moment the pomp of the world. She had three sons; Otho, afterwards emperor; Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and St. Bruno, archbishop of Cologne. Otho was crowned king of Germany in 937, and emperor at Rome in 962, after his victories over the Bohemians and Lombards. Maud, in the contest between her two elder sons for the crown which was elective, favoured Henry, who was the younger, a fault she expiated by severe afflictions and penance. These two sons conspired to strip her of her dowry, on the unjust pretence that she had squandered away the revenues of the state on the poor. This persecution was long and cruel, coming from all that was most dear to her in this world. The unnatural princes at length repented of their injustice, were reconciled to her, and restored her all that had been taken from her. She then became more liberal in her alms than ever, and founded many churches, with five monasteries; of which the principal were that of Polden in the duchy of Brunswick, in which she maintained three thousand monks; and that of Quedlinbourg in the duchy of Saxony. 1 She buried her husband in this place, and when she had finished the buildings, made it her usual retreat. She applied herself totally to her devotions, and to works of mercy. It was her greatest pleasure to teach the poor and ignorant how to pray, as she had formerly taught her servants. In her last sickness she made her confession to her grandson William, the archbishop of Mentz, who yet died twelve days before her, on his road home. She again made a public confession before the priests and monks of the place, received a second time the last sacraments, and lying on a sack-cloth with ashes on her head, died on the 14th of March in 968. Her body remains at Quedlinbourg. Her name is recorded in the Roman Martyrology on this day. 2
The beginning of true virtue is most ardently to desire it, and to ask it of God with the utmost assiduity and earnestness, 2 preferring it with all the saints to kingdoms and thrones, and considering riches as nothing in comparison with this our only and inestimable treasure. Fervent prayer, holy meditation, and reading pious books, are the principal means by which it is to be constantly improved, and the interior life of the soul to be strengthened. These are so much the more necessary in the world than in a religious state, as its poison and distractions threaten her continually with the greatest danger. Amidst the pomp, hurry, and amusements of a court, St. Maud gave herself up to holy contemplation with such earnestness, that though she was never wanting to any exterior or social duties, her soul was raised above all perishable goods, dwelt always in heaven, and sighed after that happy moment which was to break the bonds of her slavery, and unite her to God in eternal bliss and perfect love. Is it possible that so many Christians, capable of finding in God their sovereign felicity, should amuse themselves with pleasures which flatter the senses, with reading profane books, and seeking an empty satisfaction in idle visits, vain conversation, news, and sloth, in which they pass those precious hours which they might employ in exercises of devotion, and in the duties and serious employments of their station? What trifles do they suffer to fill their minds and hearts, and to rob them of the greatest of all treasures? Conversation and visits in the world must only be allowed as far as they are social duties, must be regulated by charity and necessity, sanctified by simplicity, prudence, and every virtue, animated by the spirit of God, and seasoned with a holy unction which divine grace gives to those whom it perfectly replenishes and possesses. 3
Note 1. The abbess of this latter is the first princess of the empire.
Note 2. Sap. vii. 6.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. March 14.