The Life of St. Christina the Astonishing
by Thomas of Cantimpré O.P.
translation by Mark Reynolds
©2013 Mark Reynolds
1. As we prepare to write the life of that illustrious virgin of Christ Christina, let us begin by quoting the venerable Jacques, Bishop of Acre and later Cardinal of the Roman Curia, who relates the following of Christina in his Life of Blessed Marie d'Oignies: "I saw another woman (understand Christina) in whom God performed remarkable works. When she had lain dead for some time, but before her body was buried in the ground, her soul returned to her body and she was restored to life. And the Lord granted her request, that she be allowed, while living in body in the world, to suffer the pains of purgatory. And so for a long time she was remarkably afflicted by the Lord, so that at times she wallowed in fire, and in winter would remain for a long time in icy waters, and sometimes was compelled to enter the tombs of the dead. After performing this penance she lived in such serenity and obtained such grace from the Lord that many times, seized in the spirit, she led the souls of the departed to purgatory, or escorted them through purgatory without injury to herself all the way to the kingdom of heaven."
2. This account of her, as we have said, was related by the venerable Bishop Jacques. The rest I myself have written, an unworthy brother of the Order of Preachers, for the edification of my readers and especially for the glory of Christ. Though my writing is simple and unrefined, I am at least certain of the truthfulness of the account that has been told me. And I can with good reason say that I am certain, since for many of the events I have described I have fully as many witnesses as there were people living at that time in the town of St. Trond. Nor did these events take place in seclusion but in clear public view. Nor has so much time passed that these events have been buried in oblivion, for as I write this no more than eight years have passed since her death. As for the other things which no one could know save her alone, these have been personally told to me by people who have sworn that they heard them from Christina herself.
3. And let him who reads of these events know that I have believed such witnesses, who would never stray from the truth even at the risk of their heads. We acknowledge what is true, that our tale surpasses all human understanding, since these things could in no way happen in the course of nature, and yet they are possible for the Creator. Nor would I in any way have presumed to write of these incidents, had not the venerable Bishop Jacques already given his testimony on the more prominent of them. Let us then begin our task, and tell first of her upbringing, and then set forth the rest of her deeds, as we have learned of them by a most reliable and accurate narration.
Here begins the life of Blessed Christina surnamed the Astonishing.
4. So then the illustrious virgin of Christ Christina was born in the town of St. Trond in Hesbaye to honest parents. When her parents died she was left with two older sisters. Thereupon her sisters, desiring to pursue a religious way of life, decided that the elder sister should devote herself to prayer, the middle one should tend to the house, and the younger sister Christina should watch over the flocks as they went to graze. As soon as this was done, Christ the Consoler did not forsake the one who was assigned the humbler and viler task. Nay, He grants to her the grace of inner sweetness, and He visited her often and made her privy to heavenly secrets. And yet she remained unknown to all, known to God alone, all the better known for being more secret.
How Blessed Christina died.
5. It happened then that her body grew weak from the inward practice of contemplation and she departed this life. Her lifeless body was then placed on view and she was greatly mourned by her friends and sisters. When morning came she was carried to the church. And when an offering of Masses was being made for her burial, her body suddenly stirred and rose up on the bier, and straightway she ascended upward like a bird to the rafters of the church. Then all who were present fled save her oldest sister, who remained there in terror. Christina stayed motionless in the rafters until the end of the Mass, and then constrained by the priest with the sacrament she was compelled to descend; for, as some say, the subtlety of her spirit abhorred the odor of human bodies. Then she returned home with her sisters and was given food to restore her strength. Afterward her spiritual friends came to her and asked her to tell them what she had seen and experienced.
How she was led from her body, and how she was returned to her body and restored to life.
6. "As soon as I died," she said, "ministers of light, who are angels of God, received my spirit, and they led me to a dark and horrible place that was filled with the souls of men. The torments that I saw in that place were so cruel and extreme that no tongue could suffice to describe them. And I saw there many departed whom I had known before in the flesh. Feeling great pity for these wretched souls I asked what place this was. I was thinking that it was hell. And my guides answered me: 'This place is purgatory, where repentant souls suffer punishment for their sins in life.' Then they led me to the torments of hell, and I recognized there too some whom I had known when they were alive.
7. "Next I was brought to the throne of divine majesty in Paradise. And when I saw the Lord rejoicing and congratulating me, I was happy beyond all measure, thinking that I would remain thereafter with the Lord forever. And the Lord immediately responded to my desire: 'Truly, my dearest,' he said, 'you shall abide here with me, but now I give you two choices. You may either remain now here with me, or return to your body, and there through your mortal body undergo the punishments of the immortal soul without any harm to the body, and by these punishments rescue all those souls which you pitied in purgatory. In this way, by the example of your life and penance, the living might be converted to me and turn away from sin; and when all this is accomplished you may at last return to me and be rewarded with blessings in great abundance.' I answered without any hesitation that I chose to return under the condition that he had proposed.
8. "The Lord immediately praised me for my answer and bid that my soul be returned to its body. And behold how swift the angels are at the command of the Lord! For at the moment when the refrain, 'Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world,' was first recited at the Mass celebrated for me, my soul stood before the throne of divine majesty. But when 'Lamb of God' was said the third time, I was restored to my body by the swift angels. This was the manner of my departure and return, and I was granted new life for the reform of men. Now then be not disturbed at those things you will see in me, because those things that God will ordain with me are beyond understanding. For such sights have not been seen among mortals." Hearing these things her friends were struck with wonder and waited in amazement to see what would transpire.
How she was seized by her friends and liberated by the Lord, and was nourished by her own virginal breast.
9. After this, then, Christina fled in wondrous horror from the presence of men, and took refuge in the wilderness, in trees, and atop towers or churches or other high places. They thought that she was possessed by demons, and after great effort they finally captured her and bound her in iron chains. Then she suffered many punishments and afflictions, being especially distressed by the odor of humans. One night, by the aid of God, the chains and fetters were loosed and she escaped, fleeing to the remote forests of the wilderness, where she lived in the trees like the birds. And when she was in need of food (for though her body was of a most subtle nature she could not live without nourishment) and was tormented by the sharpest hunger, she nevertheless chose not to return, but to remain alone with the Lord in the secluded wilderness. And so uttering a prayer to the Lord, she humbly asked that he look with compassion upon her anguish. Immediately she looked down and saw, contrary to the very laws of nature, her dry, virginal breasts dripping with sweet milk. A wondrous thing, and unheard of in all ages since the time of the incomparable Virgin Mother of Christ. Consuming then the flowing liquid for food, for nine weeks she was nursed on her own virginal milk. In the meanwhile she was sought by her people, who found her and seized her, and just as before bound her in iron chains; but in vain.
How she entered water.
10. For she was set free by the Lord and came to the city of Liège. Craving the sacred flesh of the immaculate Paschal Lamb, she begged the priest of St. Christopher's to fortify her for her many sufferings with Holy Communion. And when the priest had promised to administer it, but said he was not free to do so at that moment, she could not suffer the delay and went to the priest of another church and begged for the body of Christ. He assented to her prayers and gave her communion. Then seized by a certain impulse, she suddenly fled and departed the city. The priest was astonished by her flight and ran after her. He was joined by the other priest, the priest of St. Christopher's, and they pursued her all the way to the river Meuse. Rejoicing that the water blocked her way and that they would be able to capture her, they are dumbstruck as they behold the woman, in a real body yet one that seemed a phantom's, enter the deep, swirling waters and emerge unharmed on the farther bank.
How she was tormented in fire.
11. Then Christina began to perform those acts for which she had been sent back by the Lord. She used to enter the fiery ovens in which bread was about to be baked, and was tormented by the flames just as one of us would be, so that she cried out horribly in pain, and yet when she emerged from the oven her body revealed no outer signs of injury. When ovens were not available, she would throw herself into a large fire in a person's house, or place only her hands or feet in it, and hold them there for so long that it was only by a divine miracle they were not burned to ashes. She also climbed into cauldrons of boiling water that reached her chest, or her waist, depending on the size of the cauldron, and poured scalding water over the parts of her body that were not immersed, and shrieked like a woman in labor, but when she emerged there was no sign of injury.
How she was tormented in water.
12. In times of icy cold she would often remain beneath the waters of the Meuse River for a long time, even for six days or more. But the priest who was responsible for her care would come, and standing on the riverbank he would entreat her in the name of Christ, and then she was compelled to return. In winter too she used to stand beneath the mill wheel and let the water run over her head and limbs. Sometimes too she used to float in the water and fall with the water upon the rotating wheel, and yet her body showed no sign of injury.
How she was tormented on wheels and gibbets.
13. On the wheels that were once used to torture pirates, she used to bend her arms and legs the way that a torturer would, and yet when she descended there was no fracture of her limbs. She used to go to the gibbet too, and hang herself with a noose among the robbers who were hanging there, and she would hang there suspended for one or two days. She also often entered the tombs of the dead and bewailed the sins of men.
How she was tormented in thorns and brambles, and chased by dogs.
14. Sometimes in the middle of the night she would arise and set all the dogs in the town of St. Trond to barking, and would run ahead of them like a fleeing animal, and the dogs would pursue her, and chase her through the woods and the thorny thickets, so that every part of her body was torn, and yet when she washed off the blood there was not a trace of a wound. She used to cut herself too with thorns and briars, so that her whole body seemed drenched with blood. Whence the many people who beheld this frequent sight marveled at how there could be such an abundance of blood in a single body. For besides shedding her blood in these ways, she would also very often draw a great deal of blood from a vein.
On the subtle nature of her body.
15. Her body was so light and subtle that she could walk in high, steep places, and perch in the trees like a sparrow on the thinnest of branches.
The form she assumed when she prayed.
16. When she wanted to pray she was compelled to retreat to the tops of trees or towers or other high places, so that isolated from others she might find rest for her spirit. At times too when she prayed, and the divine grace of contemplation descended upon her, she curled all her limbs up into a ball, as if they were made of warm wax, so that her body was unrecognizable and seemed only a spherical form. And when this spiritual intoxication had passed and normal sensations returned to her limbs, then her body that had been curled up like a hedgehog sprang back to its proper shape and her limbs were extended, which had previously been compressed in a shapeless mass. And she frequently stood erect atop hedge posts, where she would chant the Psalms. It was clearly very painful for her at these times to touch the earth.
How her leg was broken and she was seized, and how she was liberated by the Lord.
17. Because of this and similar behavior, her sisters and friends were embarrassed not a little, because men thought that she was full of demons. And so they met with a very strong and wicked man, whom they paid to pursue and capture her, and bind her in iron chains. And that wicked man pursued her through the wilderness and was unable to grab her with his hands, and when he was finally able to lay a hand on her, he broke her shinbone with a club. She was carried home and her sisters engaged a physician to treat her broken shinbone. She was therefore taken to Liège in a wagon.
18. The physician, aware of her strength, shut her up in a cellar secured on all sides and she was bound fast with chains to a pillar and the doors were bolted. And when the physician had bound her shinbone with medicinal bandages and departed, Christina removed what had been applied, thinking it unworthy for her wounds to be treated by any physician other than our savior Jesus Christ. Nor was she deceived in her faith in the Almighty. For one night, when the spirit of the divine had rushed into her, the chains with which she had been bound were loosed and she was healed of all discomfort. She walked about the floor of the cellar, dancing and praising and blessing Him for whom alone she had chosen to live and die. Her spirit, feeling itself cramped by the confines of the cellar, snatched up a rock from the floor and with a violent effort made a hole in the wall; and if I may be permitted to use a comparison, just as an arrow flies more swiftly the more tightly it is pulled back on the bow, so too, it is said, her spirit which was so tightly confined flew like a bird through the empty air along with her fleshly body.
How oil flowed from her breasts, and so her friends sent her away free.
19. Yet not even then did her sisters and friends cease to pursue her. For when she returned and they were able to capture her, they bound her fast with chains to a wooden stake, and she was fed like a dog on only water and a little bread. So that Christ then might reveal in her an extraordinary miracle of His power, He allowed her for a time to be subdued and to suffer tribulations. So then her buttocks and shoulders were chafed by the hardness of the wood and began to putrefy, and the pain of her wounds made her listless and she was unable to eat her bread. As there was no one who showed compassion for her sufferings, the Lord showed her pity in a miraculous way, and accomplished a remarkable miracle in her that was unknown to all previous generations. For her virginal breasts began to flow with the clearest oil. She used this as a seasoning for her dry bread, and as an ointment, and she rubbed it on the festering wounds of her body. When her sisters and friends saw this they began to weep, and offering no further resistance to the will of God in the miracles He performed in Christina, they freed her from her bonds, and throwing themselves on the ground they begged pardon for the wrong they had done her, and they sent her away free.
How a common prayer was made by the religious for her.
20. Having then the liberty to do as she pleased, she suffered punishments for the sins of men, as we have described above. And when many came every day from regions near and far to see the miraculous workings of God in Christina, the religious men and women who lived in the town were fearful lest the supreme wondrousness of the miracles might surpass human understanding, and the divine acts turn the bestial minds of men to malicious works. They were thinking especially of when in fleeing the presence of men she ascended high places like a bird, and remained for a long time in the water like a fish. They therefore beseeched the Lord with earnest prayers that he might temper his miracles in Christina and bring them more into accord with the human condition. Nor did the Lord spurn their prayers and pious tears.
How her life was tempered to men.
21. It happened one day that she was violently agitated in the spirit and fled to a certain church in the town of Wellen, and finding there a sacred baptismal font that was uncovered, she plunged herself into it. When this was done, it is said that from that time forward her manner of life was more in accord with the ways of men, and she was calmer, and could better endure the odors of humans, and could dwell among men.
How she was compelled by the spirit to live on alms.
22. She frequently took the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord in pious devotion, and especially on Sunday, and she received from it strength of body, she said, and the greatest joy of the spirit. She had abandoned her possessions for the sake of Christ, and what properly belonged to her by right of inheritance, and for food and drink she depended solely on the common alms of men, which she begged for daily door to door, so that she might bear the sins of those on whose alms she fed. She used to say that the reason she was compelled by the spirit of God to beg for alms from wicked men, was so that through their offerings they might become horrified by their sins and repent of their life. For she said that nothing so moves God to feel mercy for sinners than when sinners feel mercy for their neighbors. Whence that saying of a wise man: Never could mercy, never could pity end in ought but good on the final day. And so that what we have said might be revealed by example, let us confirm it by a certain deed of Christina's.
On the man from whom she received drink.
23. It happened one day that she was afflicted by God with an intolerable thirst, and she rushed to the table of a certain very wicked man who was dining in splendor, and when she asked him for something to drink he was moved by an unwonted feeling of pity, and she was given a little wine to drink. Wherefore Christina said that contrary to the opinion of all who knew the man, he had been called in death to the pardon of penance and contrition.
What she experienced when she ate alms from the wicked; on her food and clothing.
24. This was why, as we said, she was forced to beg for alms from the wicked. And yet when she ate something given to her as alms that was acquired unjustly, it seemed to her that she was swallowing the flesh of frogs and toads or the entrails of serpents. When eating such things she would cry out as if in labor: "O Christ, what are you doing to me? Why do you torment me so?" And pounding her chest and body she would say: "O wretched soul, what is it you desire? Why do you crave these horrible things? Why do you feed on this filth?" This then was her torment when she ate something that was acquired unjustly. And yet she suffered no less torment when a wicked man denied her something that she asked for. It happened once that she took by force something that an impious man denied her, saying: "Although you refuse it now, yet later you will not be sorry that it has been taken from you, and what is now your loss will then be your gain."
25. When there was a sleeve missing on her tunic or a hood on her scapular, the spirit within advised her whom she should receive it from, and when she encountered him she asked him for it. If he gave it to her she thanked him; if not, she took it against his will and sewed it onto her clothing. Nor was she embarrassed if the sleeves on her tunic were ill-matched and of different colors. Her clothing consisted of a white tunic and a white scapular that covered her whole body all the way down to her feet. Frequently it was sewn together with no other thread than that of the bark of the linden tree, or with willow osiers or small wooden sticks. She wore no shoes, going barefoot no matter the season. For food she ate vile and wretched stuff, and the dregs of bowls which should have been cast out she boiled in water and took this as food with very hard bread made of bran, but which she first softened in water. She fed on this fare after keeping a continuous fast of two or, more often, three days.
Of her grief and lamentations for the damned, and of her joy for the saved.
26. She abhorred honors and glory with the greatest fervor, and used to say that it is for things like these that those souls are most tormented in hell or purgatory, to whom Christ had given in life the knowledge of His truth. She always walked about like one dying or in mourning, and little wonder, since every day God revealed to her whether those who were dying merited either salvation or damnation. When someone died in the city who she knew through the spirit had been damned for his sin, she wept and writhed and contorted her body, and bent back her arms and fingers as if they were soft and boneless. Her pain was intolerable to all who saw her, and none was so unfeeling that he could behold it without the greatest contrition and compassion. But for those departing life who would be saved, she leapt about in so joyful a dance that it was wondrous strange to see her in such merriment. Whence those who knew the miraculous power of her spirit could easily recognize in her joy or sorrow the fate of those who were dying in the city.
27. She attended to the dying most willingly and with great kindness, urging them to the confession of sins and the fruit of penance, to the hope of eternal joy and the dread of the flames of destruction. Nor did she attend only to dying Christians, but stirred by remarkable compassion she would minister to Jews as well, of whom there was a very large congregation in the city. She related that the Lord Christ is most merciful, yet only to those who choose to turn to Him; that most unwillingly does He exact punishment on men for their sins, and feels great sorrow when the sins of men compel Him to do so, and that He diligently seeks occasions whereby He can bring the wretched to salvation. And she spoke with remarkable grace when she said these things about the Lord Christ.
28. She related too that there was a place near hell established by God for the purging of those who had been polluted by enormous sins, but who had at the end of life repented. She said that this place held such horrible torments that it did not differ from hell in its punishments, except that those who suffered these torments took comfort in the hope of pardon. She said that demons preside over their torture, and that the demons to whom they are delivered for torture torment them all the more fiercely because they know that they have a shorter time to torment them.
How she was renowned for the spirit of prophecy; how she prophesied a massacre.
29. She was renowned for the spirit of prophecy in many things, and she forewarned many for their salvation, and accused many in private of secret and hidden sins, and called them to penance. When that unhappy encounter took place between the Duke of Brabant and his adversaries, where in the place called Steppes so many hundreds of men were slain, on that very day blessed Christina cried out like a woman in labor and said: "Woe, woe! I see the air filled with swords and blood. Run, sisters, run! Beseech the Lord and weep, lest in his wrath he withhold his mercies." And she said to a certain nun in the convent of St. Catherine: "Run, daughter, run swiftly to prayer, and beseech the Lord on behalf of your father, because he is now in the gravest peril!"
How she prophesied the apostasy of a nun.
30. And when a certain nun of the same cloister was considering leaving the convent, Christina said of her: "O empty vessel, who will bring the greatest disgrace to the convent!" Nor was it long afterwards that the nun left the order as Christina had prophesied, and through her dissoluteness brought the greatest disgrace to the convent. And when the nuns of the convent were most stubbornly opposed to allowing this same nun to return to do penance, Christina upbraided them, saying: "Although you consider her damnation of small importance, her soul was not so little esteemed by Christ, who deigned to shed His blood and die for its sake." Nor did Christina cease repeating these things until the penitent nun was allowed to return.
How she protected a certain noble on pilgrimage by her prayers.
31. There was a certain noble travelling across the sea to the sepulcher of the Lord. The nobleman's wife pleaded with Christina, imploring her to bring him back safe and sound by her prayers. Christina was annoyed by her plea, yet she offered to God many prayers, labors and vows for the knight, and returned him safely home, and said to his wife as if in irritation: "Lo, because of your insistent pleading I have returned your husband in safety to you, but know now that you will not delight in his presence for long." The truth of her words was soon revealed, when a few days later that nobleman departed from life, and left his wife and children in sorrow and desolation.
How she prophesied the capture of Jerusalem, and announced the day when it was captured.
32. And long before it happened she prophesied that the sacred land of Jerusalem would be subjugated by the impious Saracens. And when the day came that Jerusalem was captured by Saladin, King of the Persians, along with the sepulcher of the Lord and the cross of Christ, Christina was in the town of Looz and knew of the event in the spirit. Greatly rejoicing in this event, she was asked by those present to explain the reason for her great exultation. "Rightly," she said, "do I exult, because the Lord Christ, rejoicing in gladness today with the angels, has provided an occasion whereby a great number of the human race might be saved."
33. And when those present inquired what this occasion was, she said: "Know that today the Holy Land has been delivered to the hands of the wicked, and a great occasion for the saving of souls has been thereby provided. For though the Holy Land was made sacred by the pains of His passion, yet it is destined to perish with the world at the end of the world, and Christ thinks it worthy to bear the outrage of its shameful surrender, since through its recovery souls redeemed by His blood which shall never perish will be converted from the way of impiety to the way of righteousness, and men will shed their blood in this affair, and in great devotion will die for Christ as He died for them." Then all who were present were struck with wonder, and some of them mark the time and discover later, after the news had time to reach them across the sea, [that Jerusalem had fallen] on that same day.
How she prophesied a great famine.
34. She also prophesied a long time beforehand a very great famine that took place around the year 1170. Christina prophesied too a great many other things which have already come to pass or which we believe will come to pass in the future.
Of her seizure in the spirit, and her miraculous song in the convent.
35. She was on very familiar terms with the nuns of St. Catherine's outside the town of St. Trond, and at times when she was sitting and speaking with them about Christ, she would suddenly and unexpectedly be seized by the spirit, and her body would begin to spin round and round like a hoop that children play with, with such violence that the shape of her limbs could not be discerned. And when she had spun in this way for a long time, her whole body lay still, as if exhausted by the violent exertion; and then between her throat and chest there sounded a wondrous melody, which no mortal could understand, or imitate by any artifice. That song of hers had only the pliancy and tones of music; the words of the melody, if indeed they can be called words, were incomprehensible. In the meanwhile no sound or breath escaped from her mouth or nose; the angelic melody sounded only between her throat and chest.
36. In the meanwhile she lay motionless and her eyelids were closed as if in sleep. Then after a while she returned to herself somewhat, like one intoxicated, and she arose truly intoxicated, and loudly cried: "Bring the convent to me, that we might praise Jesus of sublime goodness for His miracles!" Then when the nuns had hurriedly gathered from every part of the convent (for they took great joy in Christina's consolement), she began: "Te Deum, laudamus," and finished the hymn with everyone accompanying her. But later, when she had fully recovered her senses and learned from the others what she had done, and how she had summoned the convent to praise Christ, she fled in shame and embarrassment, or if she was forcibly kept from fleeing by one of the nuns, she was consumed with grief beyond measure, and called herself stupid and foolish.
How she reviled the world for not recognizing its Creator.
37. And sometimes when she had recovered from one of these states and returned to herself again, she would say with great bitterness of heart: "O wretched and miserable world, that does not recognize its Maker! Why do you not serve Him? Why do you not consider His long-suffering patience? If you beheld His goodness, you could not be turned away, but would love Him. But you have turned away, O wretched world; you have closed your eyes and chosen not to see." Saying this she shrieked like a woman in labor, and contorted her limbs and wallowed on the ground wailing loudly, and asked again and again why the world did not recognize its Creator.
How she left her home and came to Looz.
38. After this she left her home and kin and went to a walled town on the border of Germany called Looz, where she stayed for nine years with a certain recluse, a woman of most devout life named Yvette, and there God worked wondrous things through her. Many of the things I have written about Christina I heard revealed to me by this recluse. Indeed, I came to her from a distant region in France for this very reason.
39. In this place, then, Christina attended matins every night, and when everyone had departed from the church and the doors were barred, as she walked the pavement of the church she sang a song of such sweetness that it seemed more the song of angels than of men. This song was so remarkable to hear that it surpassed the sound of all musical instruments and all human voices. Yet it was not as fine and not nearly so lovely as the song of praise which sounded in her throat and chest when she was in a state of ecstasy. This song, I say, was in Latin, and adorned with remarkably harmonious phrases.
How she understood Scripture by divine aid.
40. She had, moreover, a full knowledge of the Latin language, and a thorough understanding of the meaning of divine Scripture, although from birth she was entirely illiterate, and when she was asked by certain spiritual friends she would answer with great precision their most obscure questions. Yet she chose to do this only rarely and very reluctantly, saying that to interpret Holy Scripture was the duty of the clergy, and that this sort of ministry did not rightly belong to her. Because of her intense love for Christ she had a wondrous reverence for the clergy and especially for the priests, although she suffered in return many injuries from them. Priests and clerics who had sinned she sweetly admonished in private and with remarkable reverence, as if they were her own father, warning them not to defame the good name of Christ among the people by their transgressions.
How much she was venerated by Count Louis.
41. A great noble, Louis Count of Looz, learning of her distinguished reputation for sanctity, began to love her with all his heart and to pay sincere heed to her words and counsel. Wherever he saw her he rose and rushed to meet her, and called her mother. But when he had committed some offence against justice, or against the church of Christ or its ministers, she grieved for him as a mother for her son, and going to him in his palace she upbraided him with a mother's freedom, and obtained from him whatever amends that justice required.
How she spoke stirring words.
42. And indeed one day when this same Count Louis was reclining in the churchyard surrounded by a large retinue of knights, she stole up and stood over his head. Lifting up her eyes and hands she began to speak in a remarkably lovely voice: "O how beautiful you are, O Lord!" The knights hearing this said to the count: "Do you hear, lord Count, how this holy woman praises you?" And the Count replied: "I know whom she praises. It is not I, but her heavenly Lord, who is the creator of all beauty, and is the most beautiful of all." Then she said: "You have spoken the truth. Why then do you not love Him?"
How she predicted trouble for this same count.
43. Once this same count in his palace at Looz, now demolished, was lying on a cushion talking with the Duke of Limburg and another count around noon in the summertime. Christina boldly ran up and cried to Count Louis: "O wretched man, with whom do you now hold colloquy? Lo, there is one who treats you as a friend, but is an enemy who is now planning to betray you." Then the traitor, shuddering at the words of the woman, fell silent for the moment, and he concealed the truth with his words, but the outcome confirmed her prediction.
What she did at the death of the count.
44. This same Count Louis, when he was at the point of death, had Christina summoned to him and earnestly implored her to remain with him until the hour of his death. When she kindly assented he bid all those who were with him to leave the bedroom; Christina alone he kept with him in his chamber. Thereupon the Count, with what little strength he had, arose and prostrated himself at Christina's feet, and weeping copiously recited all his sins to her from the age of eleven up to that very day. He did this not for absolution, which she had not the power to grant, but so that by this act of atonement she might be moved to pray for him the more. After this the Count had all his people summoned to his bedroom, and arranging his affairs according to the counsel of Christina, he died. And she saw his soul being delivered to purgatory, to be tormented by the bitterest punishments.
How she shared the punishments of purgatory with the soul of the count.
45. The pious woman greatly pitied him, and prevailed upon God to allow her to share with him his punishments in purgatory. Indeed, when he had appeared before her after his death to seek her aid, Christina said to him: "Go now and depart from here, and suffer the punishments for your sins according to the divine judgement; but I shall suffer torments in my body and take upon myself half a share of your purgatory." When these things were so done, you could see Christina for a long time afterwards in the hours of night being tortured by flaming heat, and sometimes by icy cold. And it is certain that the soul of the Count was being tortured too with these alternating torments. And in the places where the Count had often sinned she wept inconsolable tears, and experienced pain where he had experienced empty pleasures.
How she behaved in the last year of her life.
46. In the final year of her life she frequently abided in solitude in the wilderness, returning only rarely, when she was compelled by the spirit to tend to the salvation of men or to take food. At that time no mortal could stop her from going out into the wilderness when she felt the longing to do so. When she returned no one dared greet her or ask her any question. For at times when she returned at dusk she passed through the midst of the house like a spirit over the ground, and one could scarcely tell whether it was a spirit or a body that was passing by, since she seemed to scarcely touch the earth. In that final year of her life the spirit had so nearly taken full possession of her animal body, that human minds and eyes could scarcely look upon the shadow of that body without fear and trembling. When she returned to the town of St. Trond, she would often stay in the convent of St. Catherine.
The story the lord Thomas, abbot of St. Trond, told of her.
47. The aforesaid venerable Thomas, now the abbot at St. Trond but then a priest of the city, told me a story about Christina that very much merits retelling. One day at dawn he was returning home from matins with a comrade, and lo, Christina passed him in a violent rush and entered the church. They followed her without her knowing it and watched in secret from behind a pillar, to see what she would do or what her prayers would be. Immediately she threw herself before the altar like a sack of dry bones. Then groaning often and loudly she began to pound her chest and body with her fists, saying: "O wretched and miserable body, how long will you torture me in my sorrow? What are you doing with me? Why do you detain for so long my unhappy soul? How long will you keep me from the sight of Christ? When will you leave me, so that my soul might be free and return to its creator? Woe to you, miserable wretch! And woe to me who am joined to you!"
48. Saying these and other such things, she pounded her body. Then assuming in turn the role of the body, as if addressing the spirit she said: "O wretched soul, why do you torment me so? What holds you in me, and what pleasure can you take from me? Why do you not allow me to return to the earth from which I came, and to rest, until I am reunited with you on the day of the last judgement? Why do you not go to your rest, that you might enjoy better things in heaven?" Saying this she sighed and wailed and wept. Then as she rested for a little in silence, and in holy thought began to glow with a purer love for God, she burst into the sweetest laughter, and lifting up her feet with both hands, she kissed the soles with the greatest affection and said: "O sweetest body! Why did I beat you? Why did I heap you with abuse? Did you not obey me in every good work I undertook to accomplish at the bidding of God? You endured the toils and torments which the spirit imposed with the greatest kindness and patience."
49. Again resuming her kissing she said: "Now endure in patience, my excellent and delightful body. The end of your labor is soon at hand. Soon you will rest in the dust and sleep for a little, and then at last, when the trumpet sounds, you will cast off all corruption and rise again, and you will be joined with the soul in perpetual joy, whom you have had as a companion in your present sorrow." Soothing her body with such words and with kisses, after a while she poured forth a wondrous song of praise, which we spoke of before; and she was filled with such merriment within, that it seemed she was bursting from her body without. Truly marvelous is God in his saints, and in this saint, I might say, marvelous beyond all admiration!
The manner of her life before her death.
50. At the end of her life she ate very rarely and sparingly. She did not want to sit and talk with the sisters and religious as she had before, but after a small meal and a short sleep, when it was not yet midnight she would go out into the wilderness. Never in those days did anyone see a smile on her face; she was like one who had been driven mad by too much sorrow. She walked about praying and moaning and pounding her chest; and this was because, as is believed by some, the Lord revealed to her more than usual about the state of the world and the evil in it. There was one thing that she often deplored with marvelous wailing, that almost the whole human race was corrupt in the spilling of seed, and for that reason the wrath of God would soon fall with vengeance upon almost all of Christendom.
On her languor before death.
51. As the time approached when she would be held confined by the languor of death, she obtained such constant grace of contemplation that it was very troublesome to her to direct her mind elsewhere. At the end, then, retiring from all affairs, she kindly asked a certain nun of St. Catherine's named Beatrice to prepare in secret a bed for her in a chamber, because the languor was imminent. When Beatrice readily did what she was asked, Christina lay down and was assailed by a worsening sickness. And when she had been confined by languor for three weeks, she asked to receive in communion the body of the Lord and the oil of unction. When this was done, this Beatrice whom I mentioned earlier fell to her knees before her and asked that she inform her of certain matters before she departed life. And when Christina was silent, Beatrice, thinking that her thoughts were elsewhere, postponed the question, and leaving the chamber to perform some task, she left her in the meanwhile alone.
On her second death, and how she again returned to life, and died a third time.
52. It is said by some that she often asked the Lord in life not to honor her with any miracles in death, but to allow her to suffer the common death of men, and in this also she was heard by the Lord. For before Beatrice returned, Christina was called by Christ and breathed her last. Immediately thereafter Beatrice returned with another sister and found the lifeless body of Christina on the ground, laid out in the manner of the dead, and I truly believe that this service was performed by angels. Then Beatrice, acting with great impatience, falls upon the body of the deceased, shouting and wailing violently. And when amidst her shouting she had asked the departed Christina again and again why she had gone away to the Lord without the leave and blessing of the sisters, she finally grew bolder, and with her face fixed on the face of the dead woman she said with great vehemence: "O Christina! You were always obedient to me in life; I pray and beseech you now through the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you loved in life with a burning desire, that you obey me now too. Since you now have the power, through Him with whom you are now joined, to do whatever you wish, return to life and tell me what I fervently asked you to reveal to me when you were alive."
53. An astonishing thing! When Beatrice shouted this into the dead woman's ear, Christina returned to her body and heaved a deep sigh, and with an anguished look lashed at Beatrice for calling her back. "O Beatrice," she said, "why did you disturb me? Why did you call me back? I was at that very moment being led to the presence of Christ. But now, my sister, quickly ask me what you want, and allow me, I beseech you, to return to the things of the Lord I so longed for." Then Beatrice asked her question and received her reply. In the meantime the sisters of the convent had gathered around her. Signing them with the sign of the cross and saying the accompanying words, she experienced death for a third time, and died a third time, and thus passed over into eternity.
On the burial of Blessed Christina and the removal of her body.
54. After she was resurrected from the dead for the first time she lived 42 years, and died around the year of our Lord 1224. She was buried outside the town of St. Trond in the convent of St. Catherine, and she reposed there for seven years, at which time they moved all the buildings of the convent to a more suitable site near the town. Then, when all the citizens had assembled, the clergy and the sisters of the convent went to the tomb of the blessed and revered Christina. And when they opened the tomb by removing the lid that covered it, the grace of such sweetness seized each and every one of them, that all with one mind and one voice shouted that Christina was astonishing in life, and no less glorious in death. Nor indeed do any doubt that a healing grace was conferred on those who approached her tomb with the proper faith. But we cannot now speak further of these matters.
The conclusion of the book.
55. Behold then, reader, how great is our delinquency, when we see how Christina suffered so many punishments and torments not for herself but for her neighbors, and yet we shrink from doing penance for ourselves and for our sins. The day will surely come, and it will come soon, when we would gladly undergo greater punishments than these, if in answer to our plea we should be given the opportunity for penance, and be permitted to relive those times that were wasted. And woe to those who want then to buy the oil of mercy, when the market-time has passed; they will knock at the door with an empty lantern, and they will obtain no entry. Nay, rather it will be said to them: Amen I say to you, I do not know you. Therefore be watchful, for you know not the day nor the hour.
56. We have concluded then with a necessary argument for the sleeper, who heedless of the day and hour chose not to be watchful with a lamp filled with the oil of good works from the worthy fruits of penance. Therefore be watchful, for you know not the day nor the hour when your Lord will come. And what else did Christina proclaim throughout her life, if not that men should do penance and be prepared every hour? This she taught by her many words, by her tears, by her wailings, by her infinite cries, by the example of her life, more than we have seen from any writing or account of all who came before or after her, for the praise and glory of Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
57. It happened afterward in the year of our Lord 1249, that on a certain day early in the morning a woman, as it seemed, aged in body and clad in white, knocked at the gate. When she was led inside she asked to see a monk who was also a priest. When she had been led to him, she said: "I have been sent by divine revelation to announce to you that you should remove from its resting place the body of a certain most holy woman, Christina by name, which was buried with negligence. If you do this, this place will attain grace and glory by her merits and prayers, but if you neglect it, you will be responsible for an offense against the divine will." And when the monk asked her to tell this instead to the prioress and the nuns of the convent, she was silent.
On the second raising of her body.
58. And immediately the monk went running to fetch the prioress and the sisters of the convent, but upon returning he could not find the woman. He ran hurriedly through different streets and sent others to do the same, but could not find anyone who had seen the woman either staying or leaving. Many indeed swore that they saw her entering the gate, and this was not unusual. For the angel Raphael judged that heavenly secrets should be not revealed to the multitude, but only to Tobit and his son, and we see something similar happening here. The convent, hearing of these things and fearing lest, as has been said above, they should incur an offense against the divine will, quickly and joyfully removed the sacred bones from the tomb, carefully washed and dried them, and then deposited them in an honored place next to the altar.
On the first miracle, which happened after the raising of her sacred body.
59. Immediately after the body of Christina the Astonishing was raised from the tomb, a certain woman who lived near the convent had long been so weak, and her limbs so powerless that she would have been unable to rise out of bed even if her house were burning. Inspired by the report of so wonderful an event, she pleads with her husband to be taken to the convent. He was moved by the tears of the woman and placed her in a conveyance commonly called a hay wagon, and took her to the convent. Then carried by hand to the tomb, she was healed in all her limbs and she arose, and blessing Christ and his bride Christina, she walked back home under her own power.