Posted by: anna | January 17, 2011

St Pharaildis

Today (4 January) the calendar is a bit thin, but once again a date-search of Miss Dunbar’s treasure trove has come up trumps with St Pharaildis:
St. Pharaildis or SARACHILDE, called in Flemish VARELDE, VEERLE, VERELD, VERL, or VERYLDE, Jan. 4, V. + 745. Patron of Ghent ; of sickly children ; of the health of cattle ; of butter. Represented with a goose, or with loaves of bread, or with a cat. Very few saints have a cat, as it was more associated with the bad side of a woman’s character.
Pharaildis was daughter of Witger or Theodoric, duke of Lorraine, and ST. AMELBERGA (1), who was sister or niece of Pepin of Landen, father of Charles Martel, and mother, by two marriages, of several saints whose number and names are variously given. Pharaildis is generally said to have been the daughter of the second marriage, and sister of St. Venant, and perhaps of St. Gengulf (or Gingo), martyrs, and half-sister of St. Adelbert, bishop of Cambrai, and of SS. GUDULA, REYNELD, and ERMELIND. She was brought up by her aunt ST. GERTRUDE abbess of Nivelle ; and under her influence, made a vow of celibacy, foreswore all splendour of dress and luxury of any sort, and gave all her money to the poor. She had many suitors, and her parents married her to the one whose rank was the highest. She told him she was the spouse of Christ and consecrated to Him by a vow of chastity. He did not appreciate her sanctity and she could not be reconciled to domestic life. He ill treated her. They quarrelled and parted. He suffered to his dying day, from a complaint which was regarded as a direct visitation of Divine vengeance, for his disrespect and unkindness to his holy wife. She led the life of a nun in her own house, always getting up at cock crow, to attend matins at the nearest monastery.
She died at the age of ninety; and not long after, during an invasion of the Normans, the abbot and monks of the church where she was buried, took her body, with other precious relics, and fled to Ghent.
It has been remarked that all the saints who are represented with geese have their festivals in winter, and it seems probable that the geese in the calendar marked the time when wild geese were expected to migrate, or that they were intended to typify snowstorms, and that the legends of miracles concerning geese were invented to account for the pictures.
Of St. Pharaildis the same story is told as of ST. WEREBURGA, namely, that she restored to life and plumage a goose which had been stolen and eaten. Possibly the goose that Pharaildis carries denotes the town of Ghent, of which she was patron, and the name of which means goose. ST. BRIGID (2), ST. MILBURGA and ST. HILDA also ordered off mischievous geese.
The miracle of the loaves seems to have been performed after her death. A poor woman had no bread for her child and begged her sister to give her some. She answered that she had none in the house. The poor sister continued to beg ; whereupon the cruel one exclaimed, ‘May St. Pharaildis change the loaves into stones if I have any here !’ Then all the loaves turned into stones, and two of them are still preserved at Ghent. A holy comb is kept as a relic of her. Her feast was for ages the chief holiday at Ghent and observed with great merrymaking. The Belgians say that if the sun shine on Pharailde’s day, it foretells pestilence. AA.SS. Cahier. Eckenstein. Swainson, Folklore.
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None of which explains why Pharailde should have become the patron saint of cows, butter, sick children or household pets! more research required… it’s probably all in the Acta Sanctorum. Antiquarian Latin, anyone?
Tropaire à sainte Pharaïlde, (Natalice en 745 A.D.)
Fille de sainte Amalberge, et nièce dévote*
De sainte Gertrude, et sœur de sainte Gudule,*
Malgré ton désir de te consacrer à Dieu,*
Tes parents te firent contracter mariage.*
Devenue veuve, tu vécus dans la prière*
Sainte Pharaïlde, prie le Christ pour nos âmes!
translation – Troparion of St Pharaildis  

Daughter of St Amalberga and devout niece
Of St Gertrude, and sister of St Gudula,
Despite your desire to consecrate yourself to God
Your parents made you enter into marriage.
On becoming a widow, you lived in prayer.
St Pharaildis, pray to Christ for our souls!
Holy Pharaildis, pray to God for us.

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