Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Adelaide: Patron of Abuse Victims

The Saint of the day for December 16th is St. Adelaide of Burgundy, a marvel of grace and beauty, according to her spiritual director and biographer, St. Odilon of Cluny. She was born a princess in 1931 and was to become not only the Queen of Italy, but the Empress of Italy. More importantly, Adelaide lived a holy life, which wasn't an easy task, given her circumstances in life, and was later canonized a saint.

The daughter of King Rupert II of Burgundy, France, at age 16, she married Lothar of Italy, who became king of Italy. She was widowed in 950 while still a teenager. Lothar was thought to be poisoned by his successor to the throne, Berengarius. As part of his attempt to solidify his grip on power, Berengarius ordered Adelaide to marry his son; but she refused, and was imprisoned.

A priest came and dug a tunnel to where she was being kept and helped her escape from prison. She remained hidden in the woods until the Duke of Canossa carried her to his castle. During this time the Italians had turned against Berengarius and had compelled the German king, Otto the Great, to invade Italy. His invasion was successful and while in Canossa he met Adelaide and ended up marrying her on Christmas Day, 951 at Pavia. He was crowned Emperor in Rome in 952, and Adelaide reigned with him for 20 years. Widowed in 973, she was treated poorly by her step-son, Emperor Otto II, and his wife Theophano, but eventually reconciled with them.

When Otto II died in 983, he was succeeded by his infant son, Otto III. Theophano acted as a regent, and since she still did not like Adelaide, used her power to exile her from the royal court. Theophano died in 991, and Adelaide returned once again to the court to act as regent for the child emperor. She used her position and power to help the poor, evangelize, especially among the Slavs, and to build and restore monasteries and churches. When Otto III was old enough, Adelaide retired to the convent of Selta near Cologne. Though she never became a nun, she spent the rest of her days there in prayer.

She died on December 16, 999 of natural causes and was canonized by Pope Urban II in 1097. Her feast day is kept in many German dioceses. She is the patron of: abuse victims, brides, in-law problems, parenthood, second marriages, step-parents, and widows.

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