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St Lydwine of Schiedam Paperback – July 1, 1979
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Lydwine herself was a nobody, born into a family which had fallen on hard times. Her life as a young girl seemed very ordinary, except for once, when she mentioned to her mother that the statue of the Virgin had smiled at her. Did she, like Padre Pio, experience mystical visions even as a child?
At any rate, her life changed dramatically when she broke a rib ice skating at age fifteen. She was carried to her bed, and in that bed, and in great pain, she stayed for the rest of her life.
Why? Her illness is mysterious by modern standards. It's possible that the physicians brought to treat her may have done more harm than good. Or it may be that there was much more to the illness than has been described, or that God allowed her to suffer for others--certainly that was the case with her stigmata. At any rate, Lydwine was now to suffer agony such as few have ever lived through.
Lydwine flung herself upon God, praying ceaselessly even though God gave her no comfort at first, and she lived in nothingness except for the unending pain. Then came the moments, and even days, when she was in a state of ecstasy. She was always either in one extreme or the other.
She bilocated, had visions, could read souls, smelled of heavenly perfume, and ate nothing but the Eucharist.
After her death, her frail body which had been so tortured and so ugly, suddenly became as fresh and pretty as before the day when, at fifteen, she broke that rib. Her life is amazing and deserves to be better known.
According to the revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, she was suffering voluntary expiation for the welfare of the Church. Her condition became so bad that at one time she had virtually come apart into three pieces - her body reflecting symbolically the condition of the Church. St. Lydwine, besides eating no food, was often wrapped in ecstacy and manifested numerous phenomena typical of mystics, most noticeable of which was a strong and delectable perfume. Her incredible story makes fascinating and inspiring reading because St. Lydwine ranks as one of the most heroic victim souls of all time. 252 pages, paperbound, imprimatur.
However, instead of aesthetic fantasia or Catholic revelation or surreal beauty, I was confronted with the most nauseating, the most repulsive, the most unappealing images ever to occur in the whole history of literature. St. Lydwine was afflicted with virtually every disease known to medieval man. I had to endure detailed descriptions of her vomiting buckets of pus, being covered in hideous oozing sores, bursting open, rotting, losing her arms, weeping tears of blood, losing an eye, getting pustules. . .must I go into detail? Suffice to say,I nearly fainted upon reading some of this.
And the squalid descriptions of St. Lydwine don't even serve a spiritual purpose in this particular recounting. In En Route, when Durtal talked about Lydwine (sans detailed descriptions), he emphasized the fact that she was expiating the sins of her fellow man, and then he went on to explain the phenomena and their mystical purpose. But here, Huysmans virtually ignores all of the higher symbolism that is inherent in Lydwine's suffering.
So, if you know Huysmans primarily as the Decadent creator of myriad beauties, don't read this book; it contains the most ugly and repulsive images I've ever read. And if you know Huysmans primarirly as a forceful spokesman for the sublimity of Catholicism, don't read this book; it lacks spirituality, and you can greater understand this saint by reading the infinitely more beautiful En Route.