St Walburga healing oil
The healing oil is dedicated to St Walburga, known as the patron for those caught in storms, fearful of water, and sailors. Even though she lived in the eighth century, St. Walburga’s legacy continues to have a physically healing presence today in two ways: the community of Benedictine nuns that she established in Europe were one of the main branches of sisters who came to serve in America, and her relics emit a kind of oil that pilgrims seek as an aid to healing.
Her Early Life
She was an Englishwoman, the daughter of St. Richard the Pilgrim, and sister to St. Willibald and St. Winebald. She was educated at a monastery in England, and that is where she professed her religious vows.
St. Boniface, the great “Apostle of Germany,” was uncle to these holy siblings, and when he left England to evangelize the German people, he took St. Walburga’s brothers with him. Later, he wanted to establish convents in Germany and asked missionary nuns from England to join him there. Walburga was among those who left her home to preach the good news on the continent. She studied medicine and brought those skills to the people she served.
She was also well-educated and literate, and wrote of her brothers’ lives and experiences on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with their father, Richard. Because of this, she is known as the first female author of either Germany or England.
Her brother, Winebald, founded double monasteries—one for monks and another for nuns—and asked her to lead the convent. When he died some years later, she was appointed abbess of both houses by her other brother, Willibald, who had been appointed bishop of that region.
St Walburga’s Death
She died on 5th of February 779 at Heidenheim, Swabia, Germany of natural causes.
The main body of her relics rest on a rock in a church in Bavaria, and a kind of oil flows from an opening in the rock under her relics. It is an aromatic watery fluid, and even today people have experienced cures through its use and the intercession of St. Walburga.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Prayer and a gesture of faith, like applying the oil, are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. By doing so we place our trust in God.