|The Life and History of Saint Wendelin
Saint Wendelin began his life in the Year of our Lord, 554 in a city in
Scotland. His father, Forchado, was the King of Scotland and his mother, Irelina, the
Queen. His parents, wanting for Wendelin to be trained in the virtues of piety and good
manners, turned to the Bishop of their diocese for guidance. The friendly Bishop must have
gone past the King's and Queen's wishes because Wendelin not only became pious and humble,
but decided that the lifestyle of being part of THE Royal Family was not for him. He
wished for nothing more than to lead a humble and simple life and dedicated this life to
God. So, late one night, when all were asleep in the castle, Wendelin donned the garb of a
simple pilgrim, bid good-bye for evermore to his rightful inheritance, The Kingdom of
Scotland, and slipped away, never to return.
Wendelin began a search of all the Holy Places that he could
find, looking for the ideal place where he could lead the simple life. In 574 he entered
the city of Rome where he came because of the vast numbers of churches, shrines and holy
people. Before leaving Rome, Wendelin was granted an audience with Pope Benedict I.
Wendelin opened his heart to The Vicar of Christ and begged Him for counsel and advice.
The Pope praised Wendelin's mode of life, bestowed the Apostolic Blessing on him and told
him that he should continue hating worldly things and to resolutely serve God for the rest
of his life.
Upon leaving Rome, he ventured to Germany, always disguised
as a pilgrim and beggar, still looking for his Utopia. The city of Einsidel was his
stopping point for awhile. It was here that he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to
Mary, The Holy Mother of God. His constant searching for a suitable location where he
could lead his desired hermit's life brought him to a sheer wilderness called Westerich.
He made himself a hut of tree branches and a bed of reeds and leaves. In these
surroundings he began to lead a very severe and penitential life. Only God knows how many
years he spent in these wilds and to what extent he suffered.
After an unknown period of time, Wendelin started getting the
urge to go to the ancient city of Trier in order to pray at the many shrines. It was here
that a fascinating legend developed. It seems that one day while Wendelin was roaming from
shrine to shrine, he met a nobleman who was very worldly and a known robber. This
extremely wealthy and godless man admonished Wendelin because he was begging for food. The
nobleman said, "You are still a young man. You can earn your own food. If you are not
hired by anyone, then come and take care of my cattle and earn your bread." Wendelin
felt that in taking this job and being paid for it, he would learn to hate worldly things
even more. So he accepted the job and was put to work taking care of a herd of swine.
These restless creatures did not give him a minutes rest and thus left him with no time
for his prayers. So he begged his master to relieve him from this task. The master,
despite all his evil qualities, respected Wendelin's virtues of piety and simplicity and
granted his wish. He put Wendelin to work caring for a herd of cows instead of the swine.
Wendelin could now devote more time to his devotions and took care of this herd of cows
for a considerable amount of time. An ironic twist to this story is that God so blessed
this herd because of Wendelin's prayers and devotions, that the herd became so productive
that again Wendelin found himself with no time for prayer. (This particular herd grew
twice as fast as all of the nobleman's other herds.) So once again, Wendelin begged his
master for relief. It was the custom in those days for the elder Patriarchies to be the
ones to watch the sheep. Even though Wendelin was still a young man the master turned a
flock of sheep over to his trusting care. Wendelin once more found himself with enough
time for his one great love, prayer.
Wendelin did not always take his master's flock of sheep to
the same pasture, but often drove the flock very far away to greener pastures. Also, he
wished to be far removed from any other shepherd so he could totally concentrate on his
prayers. But no matter how far away he took the flock, God always made sure that Wendelin
was home on time.
God bestowed special blessings on the flock attended by
Wendelin, preserving them from all diseases and making them doubly fruitful. These
blessings however caused jealousy among the other shepherds and therefore through the
underhanded workings of Satan set out to do him harm. They made fun of him and told the
master many lies about him. But Wendelin realized that the Devil was behind all this evil
and it served to make his faith stronger and his prayer more fervent.
When Wendelin was in the field with his flock, Wendelin
always felt a great desire to be back at his selected hermitage in order to adore and
revere his dear Jesus. He imagined that the hill where this little hut was reminded him of
Mount Olives and so he would meditate on the agony that Jesus went through on the First
Good Friday. God showed how pleased He was with Wendelin's devotion by working a miracle
of transmigration; moving the entire flock and Wendelin through the air from the pasture
to the hermitage and back again. This miracle happened very frequently and although none
of the other shepherds ever saw it occur, there were many instances that caused confusion.
One time, Wendelin found that his flock was in a place where
there was no water. His flock was thirsty and too tired to walk any distance. Therefore,
Wendelin prayed to God for guidance and then with great confidence thrust his shepherd's
crook into the ground and a spring of fresh water came forth. This spring was later
encased in stone and can still be seen not far from the city of Saint Wendel in Germany.
Every year on Rogation Monday, a procession winds its way from the city to the spring and
the pastor blesses the water which is used daily by the people to avert sickness in both
men and cattle. Beside this well is a little chapel and a hermitage. This is the spot
where Wendelin thrust his staff into the ground and left it. The staff began to grow and
developed into a birch tree. This tree stood there for many years and was called Saint
Wendel Tree. It decayed not many years ago.
This is one of the outstanding incidents in Wendelin's life:
Wendelin's master and a servant journeyed to the town of Strassburg on a business trip. On
returning he traveled through the wilderness where Wendelin had taken his flock to graze.
When they were still some distance away from the flock, the master said to his servant,
"That shepherd resembles our Wendelin or else it is indeed he."
The servant replied, "How could our Wendelin come here?
It is too far from our home in Trier." Going up to the shepherd, the nobleman found
him to be Wendelin. The nobleman grew furious and cursed at Wendelin and said, among other
things, "Wendelin, you scoundrel. Are you a fool or a lunatic that you drive my sheep
such a long way away from home? Is there not enough pasture near Trier that you must go to
this dreadful wilderness?"
Wendelin answered, "Dear master, be not angry. I find
this pasture to be better for the flock than the one near Trier."
"Shall I not be angry?" asked the nobleman. "I
have invited many guests for supper and wanted to kill a sheep for this special
Wendelin responded, "Be not angry on that account for I
want to be home on time."
"How can you be home before night when I can hardly get
home on time riding on a horse?" The master then abruptly galloped off murmuring and
complaining all the way about Wendelin. As the master entered his courtyard he was
dumbfounded to see that Wendelin was already there and was putting the sheep into the
stable for the night. He could hardly believe what he had just seen with his own eyes. He
knew then that this was a great miracle and realized that Wendelin was indeed a holy man
to be revered. The master fell to his knees and filled with both humility and contrition
he begged, "Forgive me, dear Wendelin and forgive the words of accusation that I
hurled against you. Tell me who you really are. I can see that you are a holy man and that
God works great miracles in you and through you.
With that, Wendelin threw himself at his master's feet and
said most humbly, "I beg of you master, rise to your feet and show me no honor, for I
am not a holy man but a miserable being and a simple shepherd and farmhand servant."
His master rose to his feet and said, "This I cannot
believe, but I take you to be a great servant of God. Whoever you are, I will not any
longer permit you to watch my herds. For I fear that God will punish me if I let His
faithful servant watch my flock. Tell me what you want of me and I will fulfill your every
Wendelin replied, "This only do I ask of you master,
that you change your godless life into a pious one so that the wrath of God may not come
upon you unawares and cast you and your robbers into the depths of Hell." Wendelin
had so much to say to this nobleman and spoke so forcibly that this sinful man became very
much frightened and wept over his sins and promised to amend his life. The master wanted
to give Wendelin large sums of money in the form of alms, but Wendelin refused to take any
money except what was due to him as wages. These wages he distributed among the poor and
then in absolute poverty, he went his way into the wilderness.
In 590, Wendelin went to the Benedictine Monastery at Trier,
only two hours away from his hermitage, and received the habit of a hermit and then
returned to his beloved wilderness and began to live an extraordinarily severe life. His
food was wild herbs, his drink cold water, his bed the hard ground. He prayed deep into
the night and trekked through the cold and heat to Tholey, a hard two hour journey, for
daily services. The devil tempted Wendelin furiously to give up this holy life and return
to the Kingdom of Scotland. He whispered to him that his royal father was grieving and his
mother was inconsolable over his secret departure and that they were desperately seeking
him. They would surely die of grief. Wendelin keenly felt the pain of this temptation. He
used prayer as a weapon against Satan and overcame with God's assistance. Satan did not
vanish after this defeat but so filled Wendelin's mind with unchaste thoughts that the
holy man knew of no other means to overcome these bad thoughts than to throw himself into
a thornbush, twisting around until his body was one huge bleeding sore.
The devil once appeared to Wendelin as a dragon, ready to
devour him. He was so frightened that he thought he was already in the dragon's mouth. He
prayed so hard and made the sign of the cross and the devil eventually fled.
Almighty God wished to make His humble servant Wendelin known
to the world and thus gave to him the power to work miracles. A contagious disease was
spreading among the animals of a nearby village and the villagers begged Wendelin to leave
his hermitage and go with them to pray over their cattle and flocks. Not being able to
withstand the pleadings of these poor peasants, Wendelin went with them and prayed over
the sick animals and upon blessing them they all became well instantly. Through this
miracle, Wendelin's name became known throughout the whole of Westerich and people from
all over came seeking his help and guidance.
The Abbot of the monastery at Tholey died about this time and
the monks could not agree in the election of another Abbot. They earnestly invoked the
Holy Spirit for guidance and counsel. Then they heard a heavenly voice calling out,
"Choose Wendelin for your Abbot." Following this holy sign, they went as a whole
to the hermitage and named Wendelin their new Abbot and begged him on bended knees to be
their father and superior. The humble man refused to accept this honor and burden, saying
that he was quite unfit for such a position and that the shepherd's crook fit his hands
better than the miter. The monks told Wendelin that God had manifested His will to them in
this choice and if he were a real servant of God he would not resist God's Holy will. Upon
hearing this, Wendelin obeyed God by humbly accepting this office and sent a letter to
Archbishop Severinus of Trier asking him to confirm the election. Severinus had heard many
good reports about Wendelin and the Pope also recommended Wendelin to him. So the
Archbishop happily came to Tholey to consecrate him as the Abbot of the monastery. These
two saints became very close friends and remained so until the end of their lives. (It is
certain that Wendelin, the great servant of God, ruled his monastery in a holy spirit,
although there is nothing written about his ruling or his cloistered life. Either the
humble monks did not write about it or the writings were destroyed when the monastery was
In the year 617, Wendelin became very sick and knew that
death was near. He sent word to the Archbishop Severinus who came at once to assist him
and be with him in his hour of need. He administered the last sacraments to his dying
friend. At this time, Wendelin revealed to Severinus his secret: that he was the Crown
Prince of Scotland, that he had left his country for the love of God and to serve his God
in humility and poverty by means of penance and prayer. After Wendelin's death, Severinus
said to the monks, "Do you know what noble prelate you had for your Abbot?" They
were so overwhelmed at this revelation that they knelt before the body of Wendelin and
kissed his hands and feet. (It is most probable that the archbishop stayed for the
funeral.) Wendelin was buried in the monastery before the high altar.
The next day after the burial of Wendelin was extremely
frightening to the monks for when they entered the church they found the coffin standing
on top of the altar. They buried it once more with extreme reverence! They again found it
untombed the next day. When this happened for the third time they realized that Wendelin
did not wish to be buried here. They placed the coffin on a wagon which was to be pulled
by two young oxen who had never been yoked before. They permitted the oxen to go without
any guidance. The monks followed in procession. The oxen went straight to the hermitage
that Wendelin had loved so much. Here they stopped an no amount of urging could make them
budge. Therefore the monks felt this was to be the resting place that their revered Abbot
had chosen for himself. They buried him here and this became the site of many future
miracles. The body of Wendelin was later lifted out of its burial place and elevated above
the earth into a stone grave. At the side of the stone are hewn the pictures of the twelve
apostles and other beautiful garlands and can still be seen today. Many pilgrims made
offerings to beautify this hermitage and thus was built a stone chapel with two altars.
The grave of Saint Wendelin is now found in the middle of the chapel surrounded by an iron
In this chapel the people could hear mass and found it to be
a more suitable place to practice their devotion to their saint. Pilgrims came in groups.
Many more miracles were wrought and many offerings were made. Houses were built and
finally a village sprung up so that the pilgrims could find quarters for the night and the
sick could be taken care of by professionals. (It shall be told here that Archbishop
Severinus sent a delegate to Scotland to tell the reigning King, Wendelin's brother, of
all that had happened.)
Word spread through Scotland of the life of Wendelin and thus
many Scots journeyed to visit the tomb of their newly discovered hero. They made many
sacrificial offerings and asked his blessings on their country and on themselves.