St. Alice and the Blessed Margaret Rich were the sisters of St. Edmund of Abingdon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the daughters of Reynold and Mabel Rich, tradespeople in Abingdon (Berkshire). The locality of their abode is still called St. Edmund's Lane. Mabel practiced the austerities of a nun, while living in the World, and educated her children piously. When Reynold, having settled his affairs, committed his children to the care of Mabel and became a monk at Eynsham (Oxfordshire), he found the life of the cloister easy compared with that of his home. Mabel, who always wore a hair shirt and always grudged food or comfort to herself or any one else, was glad when her husband's departure left her free to increase her own and her children's austerities.
After Edmund had been at school in Oxford for some time, during which he married himself to the Virgin Mary, she sent him and his brother to Paris to finish their education. To teach them humility, she made them beg their way thither like the poorest students, although she could have paid their expenses. She gave them a hair shirt at parting and, whenever she sent them clothes or other necessaries, she always accompanied the gift with that of some new instrument of penance. Falling ill, and not expecting to recover, she sent for St. Edmund, and commended his brother and sisters to his care.
Both of St. Edmundís sisters wished to become nuns, so Mabel left money sufficient to purchase their entrance into a respectable, if not aristocratic, monastery. Many parents at that time paid large sums to secure to their daughters a place amongst associates of their own class, and a certain degree of comfort. Edmund, however, regarded this purchase system as simoniacal and looked about for a nunnery where holiness was carried to the greatest attainable perfection, and where the piety of the young women would be of more account than their small dowry. After long search and waiting, he placed his sisters in the poor Benedictine house of Catesby, between Banbury and Daventry, and not far from Eydon, in Northamptonshire. The prioress had heard of the sanctity of Mabel, and the scruples of Edmund, and gladly welcomed Alice and Margaret as daughters of her house. Here they both attained a great degree of holiness and were successively prioresses.
Margaret died on 15th August 1257 and Alice on 24th August 1270. Many miracles were wrought at their tombs.
Edited from Agnes Dunbar's "A Dictionary of Saintly Women" (1905).
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2004. All Rights Reserved.