St Godeleva of Ghistelles

(Belgium) Martyr (entered heaven this day in 1070)

Dear Stella,

Now you can see how your patience and virtue have been rewarded!  You built up a true friendship with Bill, based on common values and constructed through engaging in worthwhile activities together.  You delayed the romance until the friendship was strong, and your dating was directed towards courtship, not entertainment, both of you being reasonably certain that marriage was your calling.  And when marriage appeared on the horizon as a possibility in the not-too-distant future, the courtship began.  And now you are engaged!  My prayers are with you… But may I also add a small piece of avuncular advice?  I draw it from the tragic-glorious experience of today’s saint.

Godeleva, a noblewomen 18 years of age, married Bertulf, a slightly older Flemish nobleman.  But Bertulf’s mother didn’t like the match.  She despised it, in fact, and convinced her son to abandon the girl even before the wedding feast had finished.  The mother-in-law took it upon herself to persecute the hapless wife.

First Godeleva was locked in a little cell.  Then she was fed only scraps of food, all the while being verbally and psychological abused (physically too, off and on).  Finally she managed to escape and return to her father’s house.  Her father threatened to turn Bertulf over to the authorities.  Bertulf’s father and bishop eventually convinced the reluctant husband to take his wife back and treat her properly.  He seemed to repent, and Godeleva gave him another chance.

But after a little while he returned to his violent ways.  Eventually, he had her killed.  He left the castle for a trip one night, and two of his lackeys lured Godeleva out of one of the Castle gates, where they fastened a rope around her neck, strangled her, and then threw her into the pond to make it look like a natural death-by-drowning.  Everyone knew she had been murdered, but the dastardly deed couldn’t be proven, so her husband got away scot-free.

You can see why Godeleva is the patron saint of difficult marriages and in-law problems.  And that’s what I wanted to mention.  Now that you’re engaged, don’t think all your work is over.  You need to continue to prepare yourselves, not only staying chaste, not only arranging the wedding details, but continuing to get to know each other, asking the tough questions (how are your other friendships, and his, going to fit into your marriage? What about your respective hobbies and interests? Children?…) about all the important issues, one of which is making sure that you will each be able to get along well with each other’s families.  Remember, you don’t live in a fairy tale.  In the real world, love is essential for marriage, but so are common sense, responsibility, and prudence.

Your hopeful uncle,


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