St. Winifred, Virgin and Martyr

Feast Day Nov. 3

 St. Winifred was born (c.600) in Wales, of pious and wealthy parents. Her father, Tevith, gave her in charge of Beuno, a saintly priest, who left nothing undone, to lead his pupil in the path of righteousness.

Winifred soon imbibed an aversion for all that is temporal and perishable, and resolved to consecrate her virginity to the Almighty. Her pious parents, without whose knowledge she would not do anything, gladly gave their consent, and Winifred made her vow with a cheerful heart, and after it, endeavored to lead a holy life in retirement from the world.

Cradoc, the son of a neighboring prince, desired her hand in marriage; and ceased not to annoy her with his importunities even after he had become acquainted with her vow. He sought opportunity to speak to her alone, and to make her yield to his wishes. Hearing, one day, that her parents had left her alone at home, whilst they were at church, he hastened, with some of his domestics, to her house, determined either to gain her consent, or carry her off by violence.

Unannounced, he entered her apartment, and, representing to her the object of his coming, told her how happy she could make his life by accepting his offer. The chaste virgin, in her fear and trepidation, knew not how to escape from the prince. At last, under the pretext of going into an adjoining room to prepare for her journey, she fled from the house, toward the church. Cradoc, seeing her leave the house, drew his sword, and hastening after her, overtook her near the church, and full of rage, he said to her: “How dare you insult me thus? Either consent to my wishes, or instantly die!

Winifred, strengthened by the Almighty, answered fearlessly: “I am the spouse of the eternal King. To Him I have given my love and cannot give it to another. Neither your promises nor your threats can make me faithless to Him.” The wicked prince, enraged at her words, severed her head from her body at one stroke, and spurning it with his foot, remained standing on the spot where he had committed the murder, as though he had done a heroic deed. He imagined that, being a royal prince, he had no one to fear.

But when St. Beuno, the pious priest, was informed of what had taken place, he hastened to the scene, and taking the head of the virgin in his hand, he addressed the murderer  ” Thou godless man, what hast thou done? Behold! as I, a weak man, cannot oppose thy power, I will call upon heaven to requite thee according to thy desert!

“Scarcely had these words been spoken, when Cradoc fell dead, without having given one sign of repentance. Beuno kissing the holy head of Winifred, laid it, by divine inspiration, on the dead body, and then preached a powerful sermon to the people on the horrible vice of unchastity. This being ended, he exhorted his hearers to pray to God that He would restore to life the chaste Christian heroine.

 And behold! during this prayer life returned to the dead body of the virgin, and the people, breathless with astonishment, saw her rise.
On her neck, where the head had been severed from her body, was a red mark, which time did not efface, as a sign of the miracle.

She lived many years after and became Abbess of a Convent, in which she ended her life, with the fame of great holiness. On the spot where she received her death-stroke, arose a spring called Holy- Well, the water of which has cured many invalids.

Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
Vol 11

 Legend has it that where Winifred’s head had fallen “the stones surrounding the fountain were stained forever with her blood, and the blood falling in the water coloured also the moss that grows there and which has the perfume of frankincense, though some say of violets.”

People visited St. Winifred’s Well seeking physical help rather than a pilgrimage of penance On 23rd November, 1851, Pope Pius IX granted indulgences to pilgrims who visited St. Winifred’s Well. This increased the number of visitors but on 5th January, 1917, disaster struck when the spring, which had been bubbling at the rate of twenty-one tons a minute, went suddenly dry. The reason for this was that tunnelling by a local lead-mine company, had caused the water to drain away into the River Dee. Later that year the lead-miners had managed to divert another underground stream to restore the supply of water.

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