Life of St. Mechtildis
Feast Day: November 16
ST. MECHTILDIS was by birth a Countess of Hackenborn, and was sister to St. Gertrude. When she came into the world, it was supposed she could not live; she
was therefore taken at once to a priest to be Baptized. The priest, however, affirmed that the child would not die, but become a nun of singular holiness, through whose instrumentality God would work many miracles.
In her seventh year, she went one day to a convent, in which she remained against her mother's will, and could not be induced to leave either by good words or by threats. In a very short time she made such progress in devotion and the love of God, that she reached the highest grade of perfection. She was extremely friendly, and ever ready to assist everybody; often performing the lowest functions of housekeeping quite alone, without assistance. She loved poverty so thoroughly that she would not even possess what was necessary; she had but one veil, and often used a ragged cloth in its stead, and had only one worn habit, which was patched in many places. She led a penitential life, and since, as her confessors testify, she had never committed a mortal sin in her life, she did penance for the sins of others.
On a fast-day she once heard someone singing a wanton song; to atone for this, she placed broken pieces of glass and crockery in her bed, and wounded herself so severely that she could neither sit nor lie down for pain.
She was constantly afflicted with sickness, so that she was scarcely ever free from pain, and was incessantly troubled either with headache, or with disease of the stone or liver; but so patient was she that she appeared more cheerful when suffering than when in good health. Towards other sick people she was so compassionate that her many employments and pressure of business did not prevent her from going to see them and wait upon them. When sick herself she would cause herself to be carried to them, and though there were times when she could not converse with them, she manifested so much sympathy with their sufferings that many were moved to tears. She cherished so strong a devotion to the sufferings of Christ that she could not speak of them without tears, and when she conversed on this subject her face and hands became red as blood. She was at all times so resigned to God's will that she seldom made use of her five senses: so that she often ate spoiled eggs without knowing it till her companions at table remarked it; as also, without knowing it, she would eat meat for fish. In giving instruction, she was so full of unction that the sisters would gather around her as around a preacher, to hear from her mouth the word of God. She was also their refuge and consoler; none ever confided to her ear a tale of suffering, without receiving from her consolation and soothing counsels.
Christ, her beloved bridegroom, Who had espoused her to Himself with a ring, often visibly appeared to her, as did also the blessed Virgin and many Saints, conversing with her as one human being would with another. She was also often rapt in ecstasy to Heaven, in order to behold the secrets of God. In her fits of illness Christ often appeared to her and entertained Himself with her a considerable time. When she desired to pray, she asked Christ which prayer pleased Him best, to which he vouchsafed to reply by teaching her prayers which penetrate the inmost heart by their power, and giving her so many instructions that no priest ever gave the like number to his penitents.
As on Easter Wednesday, the lesson in the Mass ran thus, "Come, ye blessed of My Father," etc., she said to Christ: "Would I were among the blessed to hear this voice:" He replied: "Yes, thou shalt know for certain that thou art of this number," --- and he gave her his heart as a pledge, which she hid in herself from this moment to that of her death, and felt an extraordinary devotion to it, being accustomed to declare: "If all the things which the heart of Jesus has bestowed on me were described, no Mass-book could contain them all."
When she had been fifty years in the order, and was fifty-seven years old, her end drew near. For three years she was tormented by violent pains, in which her sister St. Gertrude consoled her, and as she received the last anointing, this sister was witness to the fact that Christ Himself anointed her in a spiritual manner. On the last day of her life she suffered very violent pain, and could only utter the words, "O most kind Jesus, most kind Jesus!" At last, on the Feast of St. Elizabeth, the 19th of November, during the Gloria of holy Mass, Christ appeared and said: "Come, thou, blessed of My Father," etc., and reminded her of the promise given years ago, in which He had left her His heart as a pledge. As she gave it back to Him, He took hers with it, and she gave up the ghost.