Today is the feast day of a little known saint and one of my favorites, Saint Lydwine of Schiedam, Holland. She was born in 1380 and died on April 14, 1433.
Lydwine was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin from her childhood on. When she was fifteen she was knocked over by a friend while ice skating and she broke a rib. The rib would not heal and a huge sore appeared in its place. From then on she suffered every day and with growing intensity.That sore turned gangrene and spread throughout her body. She was confined to a bed from which she never rose. No doctor could help her. Her entire body was one blistering mass of ulcers.
Lydwine prayed all the time, had daily visions, and was chosen to be a victim soul. Jesus gave her the stigmata in addition to her sores. She had the gift of prophecy and the reading of souls. Many important dignitaries came to her for her prayers and counsel. One time, a skeptical priest brought her an unconsecrated host and she immediately discerned that it was just bread. Lydwine, from a certain point on, lived solely on the Holy Eucharist. One of her crosses was dealing with a routine stream of visitors, some of whom doubted her stigmata. Seeing her bleed, and having their souls laid open to them by her words, they became believers.
Here is one of my favorite stories. I do not have the biography I once read of her at hand, so I will recount it in my own words:
Lydwine spoke to Our Lord and Our Lady and the saints and angels on a daily basis. She suffered with joy accepting anything Our Lord sent her by way of sharing in His Cross. One day the victim soul asked Our Lord for the conversion of a notoriously immoral young man in Schiedham. Jesus replied that His grace was sufficient and that this person habitually rejected grace. “He is sinning right now,” Jesus said, “as we speak.” Lydwine would not have “no” for an answer. She wanted a special grace. She wanted his soul. Jesus refused, “My justice will not allow it.” She then started to complain. “Look at what I suffer for souls,” she said, “I suffer your Passion, all for you. Is your mercy not loving enough to win this wretched one back to grace?” Jesus would not be moved. “My justice will not allow it, enough now.” “If that it is the case,” Lydwine protested, “I will have a word with your Mother.” Jesus disappeared and Mary came and answered her prayer. The young man came knocking at the door seconds later asking the blessed saint to send for a priest. She sent for a priest and this great sinner made a sincere confession in tears. The Mother will have her way. And that is the way the Son wants it.
Saint Lydwine died in 1433, April 14. Her life was written by Thomas a Kempis, a contemporary, who lived not too far from Schiedam in the Netherlands. She was finally canonized in 1890 by Pope Leo XIII after almost five hundred years of being unofficially recognized as a saint.