Thursday, October 27, 2016

The "Holy Oil" of Saint Walburga

I can still feel the chill that made me shiver when Sister Martina came to tell us the good news-- we were finishing supper, and it was the day of her Profession. She told us the Mother Abbess had announced to the community that the "holy oil" had started flowing, and that that evening, after compline, the nuns would descend to the crypt church to sing the Te Deum! Sister Martina was as happy as we were--that the community would again thank God for this annual event, and on the very day of her Profession and our presence there. She also said that although this is usually something they do in community, Mother was extending the invitation to us for that special time. 

For a bit of history:

Walburga died in February of 779. One hundred years later, Bishop Otkar of Eichstätt exhumed Walburga's relics from Heidenheim and brought them to Eichstätt, where they were buried beneath Holy Cross Church on the outskirts of town. Miraculous healings were reported all along the way to Eichstätt. A community of religious women who cared for St. Walburga's grave was the first beginning of our Abbey's history.
For one thousand years, a mysterious moisture has collected every year on St. Walburga's relics. This water became known as "Walburga's Oil", and was seen as a sign of her continuing intercession. The oil has always been collected and given to pilgrims. Healings attributed to St. Walburga's intercession continue to be reported up to the present day."

Their new priest chaplain was already there when we crossed the dark courtyard between our guest house and crypt church door--and waiting for the sisters in the silent, dark, holy space is a memory I will carry until my death. We could hear the sisters singing compline faintly--until they finished with the Salve Regina and began approaching us through the many hallways, ancient doors and many stairs. 

After singing, and the many excited smiles, the nuns and guests were invited to climb the wooden steps they had brought for the event. I have photos of Sister Martina but yes, Number Six and I also climbed the steps with the help of the eager, jubilant nuns. We saw the chamber, so rarely open for view, under the high altar above that holds her remains, and the "holy oil" that is collected through an inventive system of little channels into a bowl that is emptied every by the sisters, from now until her feast day in February. 

It is impossible to describe the spiritual dimension of the whole experience. I had not only brought my own prayer intentions, so many and heartfelt, nestled in mother's heart, but the petitions of so many friends who had entrusted me with their prayers. In fact the whole trip was a prayer in itself, as I do not like to travel, and that spiritual dimension took me smiling and prayerfully from airplane to airplane. 

The gratitude in my heart to the saint who now is my dearest sister's patron saint--to the prayers she was accepting to take to heaven for me... To be able to witness this annual event with the sisters and sing with them, this holy occasion that happens every year for a thousand years!

I felt blessed beyond any way I could possibly deserve it. The grace of our generous God, who brings Grace, comfort and consolation to us, sinners.

To finish the post I add three of the thousands of Thank You paintings on the abbey walls. I pray that one day I too will paint one of them!

Note: This post is dedicated to my beautiful brother Eduardo, who saw the coloring pages on the blog and inquired about the vial she is always depicted holding.


Father Christensen said...

Were you able to bring some of the miraculous oil back?

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Yes, Fr.!