Friday, February 25, 2005

The Feast of St. Walburga, O.S.B.,Abbess
is today. There is information on her here.
The oil flowing from her tomb was a point of contention brought up by Charles Kingsley in his attack on Venerable Newman, and thus was discussed by the Venerable in the notes of Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

Is there an oil flowing from St. Walburga's tomb, which is medicinal? To this question I confined myself in my Preface. Of the accounts of medieval miracles, I said that there was no extravagance in their general character, but I could not affirm that there was always evidence for them. I could not simply accept them as facts, but I could not reject them in their nature;—they might be true, for they were not impossible; but they were not proved to be true, because there was not trustworthy testimony. However, as to St. Walburga, I repeat, I made one exception, the fact of the medicinal oil, since for that miracle there was distinct and successive testimony. And then I went on to give a chain of witnesses. It was my duty to state what those witnesses said in their very words; so I gave the testimonies in full, tracing them from the Saint's death. I said, "She is one of the principal Saints of her age and country." Then I quoted Basnage, a Protestant, who says, "Six writers are extant, who have employed themselves in relating the deeds or miracles of Walburga." Then I said that her "renown was not the mere natural growth of ages, but begins with the very century of the Saint's death." Then I observed that only two miracles seem to have been "distinctly reported of her as occurring in her lifetime; and they were handed down apparently by tradition." Also, that such miracles are said to have commenced about A.D. 777. Then I spoke of the medicinal oil as having testimony to it in 893, in 1306, after 1450, in 1615, and in 1620. Also, I said that Mabillon seems not to have believed some of her miracles; and that the earliest witness had got into trouble with his Bishop. And so I left the matter, as a question to be decided by evidence, not deciding any thing myself.

What was the harm of all this? but my Critic muddled it together in a most extraordinary manner, and I am far from sure that he knew himself the definite categorical charge which he intended it to convey against me. One of his remarks is, "What has become of the holy oil for the last 240 years, Dr. Newman does not say," p. 25. Of course I did not, because I did not know; I gave the evidence as I found it; he assumes that I had a point to prove, and then asks why I did not make the evidence larger than it was.

I can tell him more about it now: the oil still flows; I have had some of it in my possession; it is medicinal still.

It is also the feast of Pope St. Felix III


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