April 9 – Bademus of Persia; Waltrude of Mons

Bademus of Persia (d. 376), born in the Persian purple, used his riches to found a monastery, and became its first abbot. When King Shapur II (whom we’ve (alas) met) was taking out his family-of-origin issues on his kingdom’s Christians, Bademus and seven of his disciples were captured and thrown into prison. There they lay in chains for many months, occasionally tortured in an attempt to get them to worship the sun and/or become Zoroastrians (or perhaps just to give the jailers something to do). Bademus continued to provide pastoral support for the surrounding countryside from his prison cell, we know not how.

Nirsanes (Nersan for short) was Prince of Aria (his brother was Regent of Recitative) (just kidding), and when Shapur discovered he was a Christian, he had him arrested also. Unfortunately Nersan broke under torture and Zoroastrianized, and further agreed to do whatever Shapur asked. The wily king said he would restore Nersan’s rank and all his privileges if he would kill Bademus. Taking the proffered sword, Nersan tried to impale the abbot, but found he could not. Steeling himself, he took a swing at Bademus’ neck, but hardly made a dent. Bademus said, “Nersan, it’s bad enough you have agreed to apostatize, but now you’re murdering fellow Christians? I do not fear death, but really, I’d rather be killed by just about anybody else.” Nobody else was available, though, and Nersan eventually managed to complete the deed on the fourth stroke. (Anybody else thinking about Nearly Headless Nick? Thought so.) The bystanders were amazed at Bademus’ fortitude, thinking it can’t be fun to be beheaded by an inept headsman (although presumably their thoughts were not from first-neck experience). His body was thrown to the dogs, but was recovered by Christians and given a proper burial. Nersan committed suicide shortly thereafter. The other monks were released from prison when Shapur died.

Waltrude of Mons (d. ca. 688), also called Waldetrudis, Vaudru, and Waudru, was surrounded by saints, including both parents, one sister, her husband, and all their children. Her husband, Madelgaire (later St. Victor), was a courtier of King Dagobert I of Austrasia & environs. Their children were: Landric, who became Bishop of Meaux (although presumably not right away), Dentelin, who died a child, and Adeltrude and Madelberte, who became abbesses of Maubeuge. The timing at this point becomes very muddled. One source says Madelgaire married Waltrude in 635 and ran off to become a monk in 643; another says he was monkified around 654–656, which seems a lot more sporting. One doesn’t like to think of Waltrude stuck at home rocking the cradle with four (then three) children, the oldest only eight years old, while her husband is off having fun being ascetic. The sources are also at odds about Madelgaire’s death, putting it variously at 656 and 677.

Two of three sources agree that Waltrude took the veil in 656, built herself a tiny house by way of a cell, and retired from the world to live as a hermit. In a shocking twist of fate as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise, streams of both men and women were soon beating a path to her door seeking spiritual counsel. Before long she threw in the eremitic towel and founded a convent named after herself, Saint-Waudru (although perhaps the name got changed later—yeah, let’s go with that). In time the city of Mons grew up around it, and it’s still there. The city, I mean; all that is left of the convent is a church built eight centuries later. Her relics are kept therein, and are paraded around the city every year on Trinity Sunday, a custom that began as an attempt to ward off a pest invasion in 1349 (it worked). In addition to spiritual counsel, Waltrude was known for her charity, miraculous powers of healing, patience, fasting, and prayer. She is the patron saint of—wait for it—Mons.