Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume VI: June. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
The Venerable Raingarda, Widow
SHE was by birth one of the principal ladies of Auvergne and Burgundy: but the maxims of our holy faith had, from her infancy, given her a relish and esteem only for other riches and other nobility than those of the earth. She took no delight in the pomp which surrounded her; but sighed after the liberty of the saints, as a captive sighs for his enlargement, or a banished man for his own country. When any lover of the heavenly Jerusalem came to visit her, it was her great comfort to converse with such a one on the happiness of the life to come. She often prostrated herself on the ground before the servants of God, and bathing their feet with her tears, earnestly begged their prayers, and lamented with bitter sighs, that she was not able to do all the good she desired. She was married to Maurice, a nobleman of suitable birth and fortune, and a person also of eminent piety. In her choice of this state, she consulted only motives of religion, and by earnest prayer, endeavoured to draw down the divine blessing upon her undertaking, being sensible that a happy marriage is the great source of happiness in life, and a powerful help to virtue; but that any poison in this fountain, communicates itself very far, infects with bitterness all the pleasures of life, and endangers all moral and Christian duties. With the obligations of a married life, she joined the exercises of the most perfect Christian piety. She continued her former practices of devotion, for which she always found time enough, because, though she gave all possible attention to her family affairs and duties, yet she was more covetous of her time that the most avaricious man is of his money; and she took all precautions not to lose her precious moments in idle conversation or superfluous amusements. The education of her children was one of her most weighty concerns. She never ceased most earnestly to recommend them to God. From their early infancy she used every method to prevent the first sallies of dangerous passions, and taught them meekness, humility, and patience; so that virtue seemed in them almost to spring from nature itself. To inure them to a life of temperance, mortification, and penance, she took care to train them up in habits and maxims of severe sobriety and abstemiousness. Good example is like an inheritance entailed by a parent on a son, and almost an infallible means of conveying the virtues of one to the other. If parents are virtuous, children will easily, and, as it were, naturally take the same cast, unless dissipation and bad company abroad adulterate or efface the ideas of the good they see at home.
When Raingarda seemed to have fully discharged herself of this her duty towards her family, she began earnestly to desire an opportunity of living to God alone. A conference she had with B. Robert of Arbrissel, gave her a strong inclination to consecrate herself to the divine service in the monastery of Fontevrault. Her husband Maurice joyfully came into her proposal, and determined to enter among the religious men of the same Order; but before he could execute this design, he fell sick, and was taken out of the world. After his funeral was over, and she had put her affairs in order, she retired to the Benedictin monastery of Marsigny, which, after the death of B. Robert, she preferred to Fontevrault. A gallant train of gentlemen attended her to the gate of the monastery, endeavouring by entreaties and tears to draw her from her resolution; but she took her leave of them, saying with a stern countenance: Do you return into the world: for my part I go to God. During the remainder of her life she extenuated her body by labour, and consecrated her heart to compunction, and her eyes to tears. She served every one with as much affection as if every nun had been her own daughter. No employment, not even that of cellerer, seemed ever to interrupt the constant attention of her soul to God. Thus she lived many years. In her last sickness, after having received the extreme-unction and viaticum, she made this prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I very well know where this my body will be lodged: it will find an abode in the earth; but what retreat wilt thou this night afford my soul? Who will receive or comfort it? No one can do it but thyself, my Saviour! Into thy hand I commend this thy creature. I am a most ungrateful sinner; but I now ask of thee that mercy which I have always implored, and to thee I recommend my soul and body. After being laid on ashes, she expired with great tranquillity, June the 24th, and was interred on the 26th, in 1135. It does not appear that she has been publicly honoured among the saints; or that any juridical process has been commenced for that purpose. Yet she is reputed a saint by the sacred biographers of Auvergne, and of the Order of Cluni, and several others, as Branche De Sanctis Alverniæ, l. 3, p. 794. Arthur de Moutier in Gynecæo Sacro, &c. Her life is elegantly written by her son Peter Maurice, surnamed the Venerable, abbot of Cluni,1 and is the masterpiece of his excellent works, l. 2, ep. 17. See the notes on the same in the library of Cluni. DAndilly has given her life among those of the most illustrious saints and solitaries, t. 1, &c.
Note 1. Her son, Peter Maurice, became first a monk, and afterwards ninth abbot of Cluni, and by the sanctity of his life obtained the surname of Peter the Venerable. He engaged Peter Abailard to retract his errors, and in a spirit of penance, in his old age, to take the monastic habit at Cluni. Peter was much employed by popes in many important affairs of the church, and died in 1156. He left six books of letters, several sermons, hymns, and other pious tracts. His life, written by a disciple named Rodulph, is published by Dom Martenne, Scriptorum Veterum Amplissima Collectio, t. 6, p. 1187, and some of this holy abbots sermons, Thesaur. Anecdot. t. 5, col. 1419, 1439, and 1448. See also Bibl. Cluniac. p. 1231, and Bibl. Patr. ed Lugdun. t. 22. [back]