Feast of Saint Hedwig, Widow: Missa “Cognovi, Domine”
St. Hedwig was one of eight children born to Berthold IV, Count of Andechs and Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia. Of her four brothers, two became bishops, Ekbert of Bamberg, and Berthold of Aquileia; Otto succeeded his father as Duke of Dalmatia, and Heinrich became Margrave of Istria. Of her three sisters, Gertrude married Andrew II, King of Hungary, from which union sprang St. Elizabeth, Landgravine of Thuringia; Mechtilde became Abbess of Kitzingen; while Agnes was made the unlawful wife of Philip II of France in 1196, on the repudiation of his lawful wife, Ingeborg, but was dismissed in 1200, Pope Innocent III had laid France under an interdict.
Hedwig was educated at the monastery of Kitzingen, and, according to an old biography, at the age of twelve (1186), was married to Henry I of Silesia who was six years older. In 1202 he succeeded his father Boleslaw as Duke of Silesia. Henry’s mother was a German and he himself had been educated in Germany. Through his wife Hedwig he effected closer relations with Germany. Henry I was an energetic prince, who greatly extended the boundaries of his duchy, established his authority on a firm basis, and rendered important services to civilization in the realm. For this purpose he encouraged to the utmost the spread of the more highly developed civilization existing in the German territories adjoining his to the west, so that Silesia became German in language and customs.
Hedwig took a prominent part in the beneficent administration of her husband. Her prudence, fortitude, and piety won for her great influence in the government of the land. In particular she gave her support to new monastic foundations and assisted those already in existence. It was chiefly through the monasteries that German civilization was spread in Silesia. Henry and Hedwig endowed munificently the Cistercian monastery of Leubus, the Premonstratensian monastery of St. Vincent, and the foundation of the Canons of St. Augustine at Breslau. The following monasteries were established: the Augustinian priory of Naumburg on the Bober (1217), later transferred to Sagan, the Cistercian monastery of Heinrichau (1227), and the priory of the Augustinian Canons at Kamenz (1210). St. Hedwig brought the Dominicans to Bunzlau and Breslau, the Franciscans to Goldberg (1212) and later to Krossen. The Templars established a house at Klein-Oels. Henry was also the founder of the Hospital of the Holy Ghost at Breslau (1214), and Hedwig tended with disinterested charity the leper women in the hospital at Neumarkt. At the instance of his saintly wife, the duke then founded at his own expense, and on ground donated by himself the convent of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz (1202), and generously endowed it. This was the first house of religious women in Silesia. The first nuns came from Bamberg and took possession of their new monastery early in 1203. The first abbess is said to have been Petrussa, succeeded by Blessed Gertrude, a daughter of Henry and Hedwig, who at an early age had been betrothed to Otto von Wittelsbach. After he murdered the German King Philip of Swabia (1208), the betrothal was annulled and Gertrude entered the Abbey of Trebnitz (before 1212), where she later became abbess.
For some years after her marriage, Hedwig resided chiefly at Breslau. She had seven children. A son, Boleslaw, and two daughters, Sophia and Agnes, died at an early age; Henry succeeded to his father’s title; Conrad died while still a young man, in consequence of a fall from his horse (c. 1214); and Gertrude embraced the religious life. On Christmas Day, 1208, another son of Hedwig’s was baptized, probably not identical with the above-mentioned Boleslaw, who had died before this time. On the suggestion of Hedwig, after the birth of this last child, she and her husband led a celibate virgin life (1209), and pronounced a vow of chastity before the Bishop of Breslau. Duke Henry took the tonsure and allowed his beard to grow, like the Cistercian lay brothers (whence his sobriquet of “the Bearded”).
From this time forward Hedwig spent much of her time at the Abbey of Trebnitz. Hedwig had had many trials and tribulations. In the year 1227 her husband, with Duke Lesko of Sandomir, was treacherously set upon by Swantopolk, Duke of Pomerania, and severely wounded. Hedwig immediately hastened to Gonsawa, where the bloody deed had taken place, to care for her husband. Lesko had been killed, and war now broke out between Henry of Silesia and Conrad of Masovia over the possession of Cracow. Conrad was defeated, but succeeded in surprising Henry in a church attending Divine service and led him captive to Plock (1229). Hedwig forthwith went to her husband’s assistance, and her very appearance made such an impression on Conrad of Masovia that he released the duke. Of Hedwig’s children, only Gertrude survived her; Duke Henry II fell at Wahlstatt (1241) in a battle against the Tatars.
After her husband’s death in 1238, Hedwig took the grey habit of the Cistercians, but was not received into the order as a religious, that she might retain the right to spend her revenues in charities. The duchess practised severe mortification, endured all trials with the greatest resignation, with self-denying charity cared for the sick and supported the poor; in her interior life of prayer, she gave herself up to meditation on supernatural things. Her piety and gentleness won for her even during life the reputation of a saint. She was interred in the church attached to the monastery, and was canonized by
Pope Clement IV on March 1267, and on 25 August of the same year her remains were raised to the honors of the altar. Her feast is celebrated on October 17. She has always been honored as the patroness of Silesia.
With St. Hedwig as patroness, a canon at Breslau, founded, in 1848, a pious association of women and young girls, from which developed the congregation of the Sisters of St. Hedwig, established in 1859, at Breslau, under the Rule of St. Augustine, and constitutions approved by the bishop. Their chief aim was the education of orphaned and abandoned children. Their activity extended chiefly over Germany and Austria, but they also established a house in Denmark. At the turn of the century in 1900, the sisters numbered about three hundred, with the mother-house at Breslau.
INTROIT Psalm 118: 75, 120
I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are equity, and in Thy truth Thou hast humbled me : pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear, I am afraid of Thy judgments. (Psalm 118) Blessed are the undefiled in the way : who walk in the law of the Lord. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat I know, O Lord…
O God, Who didst teach blessed Hedwig to leave the pomp of the world for the humble following of Thy cross, grant that, through her merits and intercession, we may learn to trample under foot the perishable delights of the world and in the embrace of Thy cross to overcome all things that oppose us. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
EPISTLE Wisdom 31: 10-31
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. Who shall find a valiant woman? the price of her is as of things brought from afar off, and from the uttermost coasts. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good and not evil all the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands: she is like the merchant’s ship, she bringeth her bread from afar: and she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens: she hath considered a field and bought it; with the fruit of her hands she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her loins with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good; her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hands to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry; fine linen and purple is her covering. Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chanaanite. Strength and beauty are her clothing: and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue: she hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed; her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches; thou hast surpassed them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her works praise her in the gates.
Grace is poured abroad in thy lips: therefore hath God blessed thee for ever. V. Because of truth, and meekness, and justice: and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Ps. 44: 5) With thy comeliness, and thy beauty, set out, proceed prosperously, and reign. Alleluia. V.
GOSPEL Matthew 13: 44-52
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to His disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field; which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kinds of fishes; which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth. So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Have ye understood all these things?” They say to Him, ‘Yes.’ He said unto them,”Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of Heaven, is like to a man who is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old.”
OFFERTORY Psalm 44: 3
Grace is poured abroad in thy lips : therefore God hath blessed thee for ever and for ages of ages. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the offerings of thy holy people be accepted by Thee, 0 Lord, in honor of Thy saints, through whose merits they know that they have received aid in time of trouble. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
COMMUNION Psalm 44: 8
Thou hast loved injustice and hated iniquity : therefore God thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Alleluia.
Thou hast filled Thy household, O Lord, with sacred gifts; ever comfort us, we beseech Thee, by the intercession of the saint whose festival we celebrate. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.