St. Bertila (Bertilla) of Chelles, Virgin

5 November

Born in Soissons; died c. 705. With the encouragement of Saint Ouen (f.d. August 24), Bertila convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent at Jouarre, near Meaux, in Brie, France. There she was trained in sanctity at the school of Saint Columbanus (f.d. November 21) and later was received as a professed nun by Saint Thelchildes (f.d. June 28).

Bertila was convinced that she could never deserve to be the spouse of Jesus Christ, unless she endeavoured to follow him in the path of humiliation and self-denial. By her perfect submission to all her sisters, she seemed everyone's servant. Her whole conduct was a model of humility, obedience, regularity, and devotion.

She held the offices of infirmarian, headmistress of the convent school, and prioress. When Saint Bathildis (f.d. January 30), the English wife of Clovis II, restored the convent of Chelles, she asked the abbess to send to it her most experienced and virtuous sisters. Saint Bertila was made its first abbess and she governed it for half a century. Many placed themselves under her direction, including Queen Bathildis herself, when Clotaire reached his majority.

The Venerable Bede writes that many Anglo-Saxon girls, including Saint Hereswitha (f.d. September 3), wife of King Anna of the East Angles, sister of Saint Hilda (f.d. November 17), and mother of Saints, Sexburga (f.d. July 6), Withburga (f.d. July 8), and Ethelburga (f.d. October 12), were also attracted to Chelles under her governance. Thus, two holy queens vied with Bertila to outdo one another in submission, charity, and humility (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Husenbeth, Walsh).

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