St. Hedwig of Poland

The saint I chose today was St. Hedwig of Poland (1373-1399), who was queen of that country. Usually, I avoid crowned saints, despite being an avid monarchist. Their stories are usually layered in high politics, which can be head-spinning, considering the complexity of allegiances and marriage relations in royal history. I've never watched Game of Thrones and I don't intend to.

What did I know about St. Hedwig before today?

Absolutely nothing. At first I assumed she was a man. Just as I assumed Harry Potter's owl of that name was a male owl.

Why did I choose this saint?

Because I couldn't find anyone else more interesting! Also, I'm fond of Polish saints. (Those I know, anyway.)

What did I learn about this saint?

We should all be in the business of evangelism, but St. Hedwig managed to convert a whole country to Catholicism. Well, sort of. The husband she eventually married was Grand Duke Jagiello of Lithuania, who was a pagan. He not only became Catholic, but he converted this people to the Faith. Lithuania was the last pagan country in Europe. St. Hedwig decided to marry him (so the story goes) after a great deal of prayer, and as a result of divine inspiration.

St. Hedwig, at a very young age, was betrothed to a young man called William of Austria, but the marriage only came into effect when it was consummated. At one point William came to Poland to do just this. However, the Polish nobles had decided they didn't want him for a king and (according to one account) prevented the consummation by direct methods, including dragging him out of Hedwig's bedroom. It sounds like comic opera.

She mostly left ruling to her husband and devoted herself more to charitable works. She attended Mass daily and various legends of miracles are associated with her. One of them concerns the figure of Christ on the cross speaking to her.

She was beatified in 1986 and canonized in 1997-- both by Pope John Paul II, surprise surprise.

Thoughts in Conclusion

It took me ages to write this very brief piece. This is why I avoid royal saints. But now I know how the Lithuanians became Christian.


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