St. Lydwine of Shiedam: Virgin

St. Lydwine of Shiedam: Virgin

by Thomas a'Kempis


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he Life of Lydwine, Virgin, is of all the works of Thomas a Kempis certainly the least original and to English readers generally the least familiar.
The latter fact is most probably due to the subject matter. That the work is not original, Thomas himself is our authority, when he states in his Prologue that he has read through the "book of the life of the holy and most patient virgin Lydwine," and has now sent it on to his brothers, the Canons Regular of Briel, composed in a style more brief and clear, with certain omissions and his own division of chapters and books. In fact, our venerable Author contented himself with merely editing the biography already published by one John Brugman. A comparison with the latter shows that almost throughout a Kempis has retained even the language of Brugman. This circumstance has rendered the task of translation somewhat ungrateful: but a full compensation has been found in the intense interest which a study of the life itself of this servant of God evoked.
The first sentiment that arises, as one reads the unvarnished and detailed account given by the ancient chroniclers of the appalling sufferings which afflicted Lydwine, may be one of very natural repulsion. But a more attentive consideration of this pathetic figure, lying motionless there in the darkened hovel, enduring the most atrocious pains, with never a murmur of complaint, never a thought of self, embalms the soul with the sweet fragrance of Christian virtue, such a fragrance as refreshed the senses of those who penetrated into her miserable cabin. The thought of the active works of charity, which this victim of expiation initiated and carried out to relieve miseries far less intense than her own, fills the mind with admiration and amazement. And a further contemplation of the marvellous, mystic delights, with which her soul was almost habitually inundated, gives rise to a sense of mingled awe and envy.
It is indeed a wonderful existence to which we are here introduced: on the one hand unexampled physical suffering, wholly unrelieved by natural remedies, wholly unsupported by natural nourishment, and on the other supernatural visitations as unmeasured only as the pains of the poor, tortured, worn-out frame. So marvellous an existence may well excuse a certain amount of previous scepticism, and certainly it is such as to call for proportionate proof. But once that proof is forthcoming, for the scientific and unprejudiced mind there is nothing for it but to accept the facts, be the explanation what it may. These facts are of two orders. The first regards the sufferings and abstinence of Lydwine. However weird, however varied, however intense, however long continued, and under each and all these heads, however inexplicable from a natural point of view these ailments may be, in themselves they were sensible facts, capable of being observed and tested by all, and by their very strangeness evoking a more close and detailed observation and criticism than would be given to ordinary events of daily life. The same is to be said of her continued and absolute fast. Marvellous and miraculous as is the prolongation of a human life despite such complex and malignant maladies, and despite the absence for so many years of all bodily nourishment and sleep, the only other hypothesis admissible contemplates an alternative far more incredible, viz. That the entire population of a country town -and who does not know the intensity and ingenuity and malevolence of neighbourly curiosity in such centres? -should either have been hoodwinked itself, or should have entered into a vast and meaningless conspiracy to deceive the whole kingdom, princes, medical men, skilled theologians, and strangers of every conceivable quality and degree. The second order of facts regards other favours more directly supernatural. Many of these enter into the same category as the first in so far as they fall immediately under sensible observation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781502416841
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 09/18/2014
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)

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