Today, 22 Jun 2012, is the memorial of St Consortia, a French virgin Saint of the 9th century. Throughout the Benedictine monasteries of the Cluniac reform, St Consortia is venerated as a patron Saint, so the early members of this famous monastery must have known far more about her holy life than we do now. As has been said before, a Saint doesn’t get venerated for over a millennium unless he or she is a most powerful intercessor. St Consortia is also one of the principal saints of the Diocese of Lyons in France.
At the Cluniac chapel of Berze-la-Ville part of the painted decoration of the apse shows St Consortia escorting the five wise virgins from the parable of Jesus (the ones who took extra oil for their lamps while waiting for the bridegroom). All of them are depicted richly dressed and read for the wedding feast. It is this parable which is read out at Cluny on St Consortia’s feast day, presumably as the Gospel for her feast day.
The following story, assuming that it is the same St Consortia we are speaking of, dovetails well with this portrait of St Consortia. Apparently in the days of her youth Consortia attracted the attentions of the son of a very powerful family. She wasn’t interested. Dedicating herself completely to Jesus was far more attractive. Some wisdom was called for, since no one likes the consequences of denying powerful families what they want. When matters came to a head, she asked her suitor for a week to ponder her answer. During that week Consortia prayed with all her heart for God to reveal His will. At the end of the week the suitor returned and Consortia explained that she needed to know God’s will and asked him to pray with her. She proposed that they both went to Mass to pray for guidance and then place the book of the gospels on the altar, praying that God would show them the way through His Word. Only a cur could refuse such a request, so her suitor went along with it. The book of the gospels was then opened at random and the first lines read out. They said, ‘Whosoever loves father or mother better than Me is not worthy of Me’. With this Consortia’s suitor gave in to the Creator’s higher claim.
Consortia was now free to follow God’s call in some form of religious life. Already formidable as a young adult, Consortia grew steadily in holiness. For the next bit of her story to work, we can only guess that her reputation for sanctity had reached the king’s ears. King Clotaire’s daughter was dying. When Consortia prayed with her, or over her, the Princess was miraculously healed. Reading between the lines, perhaps the King had sent his men out to find the best intercessors in the kingdom, and Consortia was one of those they brought back. Then again, perhaps the Holy Spirit inspired Consortia with sufficient boldness to go and ask the king to be permitted to pray over his daughter. The whys and wherefores might be unknown but the outcome is. To the convent where Consortia resided, the grateful King sent large amounts of money and probably spiritual treasures as well (relics? artworks?). Getting any kind of grant from any King or Parliamentary representative is hard work, so this is impressive. Thus the King of heaven provided for the needs of His consecrated daughters.
The suitor gave in, the king opened up his treasury and even God could not refuse the prayers of this spouse of His Son Jesus. Having St Consortia on our side as an intercessor is obviously a smart move. St Consortia died somewhere around 570-578, and the first abbey of Cluny was founded in 910.
St Consortia, woman of God to be reckoned with, pray for us.