Today, 22 April 2012, is the memorial of St Opportuna, a Benedictine nun who lived in 8th century France. Her life must have been extraordinarily pleasing to God because amazing miracles have been worked down the centuries due to her intercession and many of her relics are still extant despite the many wars fought on French soil between 770 and the present. Considering that many people, over quite a number of centuries, took pains to preserve her relics speaks volumes about the continuing power of her intercession before the throne of God.
St Opportuna was born into a family of holiness, probably around the 710-720 mark. Her brother became St Chrodegang of Metz and a cousin of hers, St Lantildis, also achieved sanctity. For someone to become holy almost certainly requires belonging to a community of holy individuals. Any Saint we venerate is usually the peak of a local mountain of holiness and not a single luxurious tree in a whole valley of mediocrity. While she was still young, Opportuna entered the Benedictine convent near Almeneches in the diocese of Sees. Taking full advantage of the opportunities to grow closer to God through the full living out of the Benedictine Rule, she became a source of edification for all of those in the convent.
In time, Opportuna was elected abbess. Because she was so imbued with the love of Jesus, Opportuna was able to be a true mother to the nuns under her care and to guide them with well chosen words and good example. While it may have been commonplace for physical punishment to accompany infringements of the Rule in other convents of the time, Opportuna never had to resort to that.
One day a peasant decided to steal a donkey from the convent grounds. Even though the donkey definitely belonged to the convent, the peasant strenuously denied it. Instead of remonstrating with words, Opportuna turned to God and to prayer, begging Him to sort things out perfectly. The very next day the peasant was at the convent door with the donkey. Frightened, he told how he found his field covered in salt and useless for farming. Not only was he giving back he donkey, he wanted the nuns to have the now useless field as well.
Opportuna served as abbess until her health ran out. News of her brother’s death was a huge blow to her, and hastened her own. The happy day of her entry into eternity was 22 April 770 and there is a story about Our Lady appearing to Opportuna on her deathbed, but I have yet to have found any details of that event.
Following her death, Opportuna’s final resting place became a place of pilgrimage. Numerous miracles were granted to those who sought her intercession. One such case was the demon-afflicted wife who received healing and freedom through Opportuna’s intercession and who was called by God to separate from her husband and dedicate the rest of her life to His service.
As we have frequently seen, the good Lord loves to honour His Saints and to recall to the minds of His people their exemplary lives. Around a century after Opportuna’s death, a new bishop was appointed to Sees, but due to opposition he had trouble being installed as bishop. Turning to his local Saint, he promised that if he became bishop he would write an account of her life and her miracles. Her intercession worked, but the new bishop failed, initially, to keep his solemn promise. All kinds of trials beset him until he called on Opportuna again for help. Now he realised that his troubles were due to not keeping his vow, so as soon as he was able escape from his captors and to return to his diocese he set about writing about Opportuna’s holy life and powerful intercession.
So should you have a knotty difficult in your path, seek out the intercession of St Opportuna, and experience the long term impact of her holiness for yourself and those dear to you. I’m going to ask her to arrange the sorting out of a particular situation myself.
St Opportuna, so pleasing to God, pray for us.
Novena Prayer to St Opportuna
Dear Saint Opportuna, God granted you the grace to put Him in the first place in your life, and to generously serve Him in poverty, chastity and obedience under the Benedictine Rule. When ever you had troubles in life, you turned to God in prayer and obtained all you ever asked for, and more besides. As abbess you cared for all the needs of the religious women entrusted to you, their spiritual; needs and their temporal needs, depending upon the Providence of God. Even after your death, you are still pleading before God on behalf of all those who entrust themselves to your prayers. You have been successful in obtaining changes of heart among the clergy. Encouraged by this, I ask you to obtain for me all of the favours I seek (….here mention your requests ….). Dear St Opportuna, please take these prayers to your heart and obtain favourable answers for them all, as well as all of the spiritual and temporal graces I need to join you in Heaven praising God’s goodness. Amen.