Thecla, a Woman to Tame the Wild Teutons

Dan Graves, MSL

Thecla, a Woman to Tame the Wild Teutons

The savage Teutonic people of Northern Europe were brought to Christ by missionaries in the eighth century. The most famous of these gospel-bearers was Boniface. Among his helpers were women.

Christianity succeeds best where it reaches both sexes in a double-pronged attack. The importance of mature Christian women as examples for new converts and as educators of children was not lost on Boniface. He asked Tetta, the abbess of Wimborne, Dorset, to send him assistants. Tetta sent Lioba and Thecla to his aid.

Boniface appointed these women as heads of monastic institutions observing the Benedictine rule. Their work endured even after he had been butchered by pagans. Many a man has been able to work on his feet because others supported him on their knees. Boniface relied on his "daughters" as more than heads of abbeys. He called on them to be his prayer partners.

In a famous letter to the "...revered and dearly loved sisters Leobgith and Thecla, and to Cynehild," he wrote: "I urge and direct you, beloved daughters, to pray to our Lord frequently, as we trust you do constantly, and will continue to do, as you have in the past ... and know that we praise God, and our heart's yearning grows that God our Lord, refuge of the poor and hope of the lowly, will free us from our straits and the trials of this evil age, that His word may spread, and the wonderful Gospel of Christ be held in honor, that His grace be not fruitless in me... And... pray that I may not die without some fruit for that Gospel."

It seems that Thecla's character was so noble that when she oversaw Kitzingen, she was simply called Heilga, which means "The Saint." This day, October 15, is her feast day in various church calendars.

A grisly story is associated with the remains of St. Thecla. During the Peasant Wars in Germany, rebels desecrated the graves of St. Thecla and St. Adelheid. One of the ruffians used their heads to play a game of skittles. Their bodies were covered with rubbish when a new church was built. Despite this outrage, the echoes of the good they did cannot be muted and we are sure that they will rise again at the resurrection.

Bibliography:

  1. Butler, Alban. Lives of the Saints. Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1981, 1956.
  2. Casanova, Gertrude. "St. Thecla." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
  3. "Thecla, St." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  4. Various internet articles.

Last updated April, 2007.

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