Today is the feast of Saint Aldegundis (also known as Aldegonde, or Orgonne), a Frankish Benedictine abbess, monastic founder, and visionary. She is also the patroness of breast cancer.
Born at Hainauit, Belgium in 633, she was a member of the royal family of the Merovingians and was raised by two saints: St. Walbert (Count of Guînes) and St. Bertila, her parents. The family resided in the Hainauit region of Flanders, a region of the Low Countries. At a young age, she consecrated herself to God by a vow of virginity and resisted all proposals for marriage. Instead, she chose the life of the cloister and received the veil from St. Amandus, the bishop of Maastricht. In 661, she founded a double monastery near the Sambre River, at a desert site called Malbode. Her sister, St. Waldetrudis, founded a convent at Mons. Aldegundis’ foundation became Mauberge, a noted Benedictine monastery, later taken over by canonesses.
Saint Aldegundis was blessed with the gift of prayer and endured much slander and persecutions with patience and fortitude, looking upon them as “the highest favors of divine mercy.” She suffered and died around 680 from a very painful breast cancer, “in an ecstasy of serene joy” at the age of fifty-four. Her relics are preserved in the church of Maubeuge. She is the patron of a parish church at Saint-Omer under the name “Orgonne.”
In art, Saint Aldegundis is a Benedictine abbess, crowned. There is usually a dove with veil near her. She may be shown (1) receiving the veil from the Holy Spirit; (2) as a princess fleeing from her parents’ house; (3) walking with an angel; or (4) walking on water. She is invoked against eye troubles, cancer, diseases of children, fever, demoniac possession, wounds, and sudden death.
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