Tuesday, June 23, 2015


This past year as a catechist a mini theme of my young charges' classes was to review the saint of the day.  A favorite question was always,  Is there a saint with my name?

It's sometimes hard these days to find a saint namesake, especially for the girls.  Very few medieval parents thought to name their daughters Harper, Tiffany or Brooklyn.  To my surprise, however, when I opened my Big Book of Women Saints today, I discovered a St. Audrey.  

My oldest sister is Audrey.  I've always been puzzled as to how my parents came up with the name.  It seemed so formal, maybe British, not exactly old-fashioned, but obscure, nothing like my sister.  Aside from Audrey Hepburn and Audrey Meadows, who would be an Audrey?  

Audrey or variously Ethelreda, Ethldreda, Ethelthryth, Editrudis, was an East Anglian princess who wished to devote her life to God.  However, she was married off at a young age and was given  the Isle of Ely as a wedding present.  When the first husband died, Audrey was again married off by her royal parents for purposes of political alliances. Audrey chose  to live chastely with her new husband as she had with the previous and troubles and a miraculous escape ensued.  Audrey returned to her island and founded a monastery there of which she was the abbess.

Some accounts of the saintly Etheldreda-Audrey tell that she died of a tumor on the neck due to her early love of necklaces. I don't think my sister will have to worry about that, since I've never known her to wear even the most modest necklace. (On the other hand, neither did my sister ever receive an island as a present.)  It's not that we read about saints with our name as a horoscope to predict our future. It's more that we can let our imagination run free for a moment to wonder over the fact that we share something as fundamental as our name with a figure of virtue and holiness distant from us in time and historical setting by hundreds of years.

Audrey's body was found to be incorrupt after her death in 679 A.D.  Butler reflects on Audrey in this way:  "The soul cannot truly serve God while it is involved in the distractions and pleasures of the world.  Etheldreda knew this, and chose rather to be a servant of Christ her Lord than the mistress of an earthly court."

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