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Radegund

Translation by John Wijngaards

The following quote we owe to Venantius Fortunatus a contemporary of Radegund. We find it in his biography of her, Vitae Sanctae Radegundis. This was published in Mon. Germaniae Auctores antiquissimi, IV, 2, p. 41; see also MIGNE, PL 88, 502.

Radegund was a Thuringian princess who was captured as a child by Clothaire I, a Frankish king, and later forced into marriage with him, becoming one of his seven recognized wives. Clothaire was a violent and unpredictable man. Radegund fled from court after the King’s treacherous murder of her brother . . .

Source: Vitae Sanctae Radegundis chapter XII, § 26 & 28

Veniens ad beatum Medardum Novomago, supplicat instanter ut ipsam mutata veste domino consecraret. … Sanctissima … intrans in sacrarium, monachica veste induitur, procedit ad altare, beatissimum Medardum his verbis alloquitur dicens: Si me consecrare distuleris … de manu tua, pastor, ovis anima requiratur. Quo ille contestationis concussus tonitruo, manu superposita consecravit diaconam.

Coming to blessed Medardus at Noyon, she begged him to instantly ordain her as soon as she would have changed her dress . . . The most holy woman . . . entered the sacristy, put on a nun’s dress, proceeded to the altar, and addressed the most blessed Medardus with these words: ‘If you refuse to ordain me . . . my soul will be required from your hand, O shepherd, as a [lost] sheep.’ Struck by the thunder of her statement, he imposed hands on her and ordained her a deacon.

Comment

Radegund was anxious to escape from her worldly and ambitious husband, King Clothaire of the Franks. She wanted to devote her life to God. And by entering a monastery she would be outside the King’s reach, as nuns were generally protected under church laws. So why did she also want to be a deacon? Did it give her more protection? Or did she seek the ministry of women?

Whatever the answer, she will have received a full ordination to the diaconate through a simple ordination rite.