|1160 Bl. Waltheof Cistercian abbot undaunted cheerfulness humility, simplicity, and kindness unbounded generosity incorrupt Many miracles recorded during lifetime Eucharistic visions of Christ in the form appropriate to feasts of Christmas, Passiontide, Easter, visions of heaven and hell|
|1160 St Waltneof,
of Melrose; Waltheof saw in his hands, not the form of bread, but the
of the child Jesus. When he had laid the Host on the altar he saw
only the sacramental form.
Waltneof was second son of Simon, Earl of Huntingdon, and Matilda or Maud, daughter to Judith, the niece of William the Conqueror. His elder brother was called Simon, and in their childhood it was the pastime of this Simon to build castles and play at soldiers, but Waltheof's to build churches and monasteries of stones and wood.
When grown up, the elder inherited his father's martial disposition together with his title; but Waltheof had a strong inclination for the religious life and was mild and peace-loving. Their mother Maud, after the death of her first husband, was given in marriage by King Henry I to St David I, King of Scotland, and Waltheof followed his mother to that court, where he formed an intimate friendship with St Ached, who was master of the royal household at that time. When he went out hunting with the king Waltheof used to hide himself in. some thicket and there employ the day in meditation or reading. The king, having one day surprised him at this, told the queen that her son was not a man of this world, for he could find no satisfaction in its diversions. Only once did it look as if his vocation might be lost; he had attracted the attention of one of the ladies of the court and accepted from her a ring, which he wore on his linger. Such gages commonly have more serious developments, but when a courtier, noticing the ring, said, "Ha! At last Waltheof begins to take some notice of women he pulled himself together, snatched off the ring, and threw it into the fire.
Soon after he decided to avoid the life of a court cleric and become a religious. He left Scotland, and made his profession among regular canons of St Augustine in their monastery at Nostell, near Pontefract in Yorkshire. He was soon after chosen prior of Kirkham, in the same county, and, realizing the obligations he now lay under for the sanctification of others as well as for his own, he redoubled his austerity and regularity of observance. In celebrating Mass one Christmas day, after the consecration of the bread he was favoured with a wonderful vision. The divine Word, who on that day had made Himself visible to mankind by His birth, seemed pleased to manifest Himself not only to the eyes of faith but also to the bodily eyes of His servant. Waltheof saw in his hands, not the form of bread, but the radiant form of the child Jesus. When he had laid the Host on the altar he saw only the sacramental form.
Waitheof, impressed by the life and vigour of the Cistercian monks, became anxious to join them; naturally he was encouraged by the advice of his friend St Aelred, then abbot of Rievaulx, and accordingly he took the habit at Wardon in Bedfordshire. Waltheof found Cistercian life excessively severe, and judged it to be therefore less suitable for the salvation of souls than Augustinian discretion. Nevertheless, only four years after profession, he was chosen abbot of Melrose, recently founded on banks of the Tweed by King David. Whenever he fell into the smallest falling by inadvertence Waltheof immediately had recourse to confession, a practice of perfection which the confessors found rather trying, as one of them admitted to Jordan, the saint's biographer. Yet cheerfulness and spiritual joy always shone in his face, and his words were animated with a lire which penetrated the hearts of those that heard him. His alms supported the poor of all the country round his abbey, and he is said to have twice multiplied bread miraculously. He once went to King Stephen in England, about affairs of his community, carrying a bundle on his back. His brother Simon, who was present, was very annoyed and said to the king, "See how this brother of mine, and cousin of yours, disgraces his family." "Not so," said the king. "If we understand what the grace of God is, he does honour to us and all his kindred." In 1154 Waltheof was chosen archbishop of Saint Andrews; but he prevailed on St Aelred to oppose the election and not to oblige him to accept it. Once when giving a conference to his community he had occasion to refer to a vision of the glory of Heaven which had been vouchsafed to him, but he spoke in the third person as of another; but at last by inadvertence he spoke in the first person: he no sooner realized it than, cutting his discourse short, he withdrew in tears, much afflicted for the word which had escaped him. St Waltheof died at a great age on August 3, about 1160.
Under the Latin form "Walthenus", a long life, attributed to Joscelia, or Jordan, a monk of Furness (c. mc), is printed in the Acta Sanctorum, August, vol. i. Though prolix, the narrative may be considered fairly reliable. See also T. 1). Hardy, Descriptive Catalogue of MSS. (Rolls Series), vol. ii, p. 285