St Adelaide

Widow (entered heaven in 999)

Dear Adele,

Often as I pace back in forth here in my cubicle, or as I lay sleepless on the odd contraption they call a bed, I consider the circumstances of my death.  You may think it an odd (if not morbid) occupation, but I disagree. Countless saints have ceaselessly recommended that all Christians often reflect on the endpoint of earthly life, and even Christ himself frequently reminded his listeners of that unavoidable encounter.  Personally, it does me great good. It keeps things in perspective. Do you ever think about it? You are still quite young, of course, in the sumptuous flower of your youth, actually, so it may not come easily to you. But if you are still open to a bit of avuncular advice, as you were when you were just a girl, I would recommend that you ask yourself every once in a while how you would like to be remembered after you have gone to your reward.  And you might take as a starting point for your reflections the epitaph that the great St Odilo, Cluny’s most praiseworthy abbot, emitted when describing today’s saint. He called her, “a marvel of beauty and grace.” Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way for you to go down in history?

Frankly, I think that you could.  You resemble St Adelaide in so many ways, and today’s world situation resembles the circumstances of her life as well.  She was the daughter of a prominent Medieval king, who promised her in marriage (when she was only two years old) to the son of another prominent Medieval king – a diplomatic arrangement.  When she was 16 the marriage took place, but soon thereafter her husband (nominally the king of Italy at the time) was murdered (so it seems), and the murderer attempted to force her into marrying his son (someone should write a soap opera that takes place in tenth-century Europe).  Of course, she refused, and consequently was brutally treated and mercilessly imprisoned. Being quite resourceful, she escaped prison and fled to the German King, Otto the Great, for protection. She found it, and he proposed to her. She accepted, and when he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, she was his queen.  

Together they had five children.  Otto was twenty years her elder, and when he died, she was left to defend the integrity of the realm against her less than virtuous stepson (by Otto’s first marriage) and her positively imperious daughters-in-law. She did so successfully, and for the next 26 years, she was a source of reconciliation, peace, and justice throughout the empire.  Amid the great affairs of state, she never neglected the affairs of the spirit, endowing and benefiting countless monasteries and convents, and involving the ablest and holiest of churchmen in all the affairs of the Empire. She died peacefully in one of the monasteries she had erected near Strasburg on the Rhine River.

Amidst the political, economic, and religious turmoil of this “globalizing” threshold of the third millennium, we could use a few St Adelaides, and I am convinced that you have the makings of one of them.

Sincerely (very sincerely), Uncle Eddy

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