Oil dedicated to St Pharaildis on prayer cloth
St Pharaildis on prayer or Pharailde is an 8th-century Belgian saint in the Catholic Church. She is the patron saint of Ghent. Her dates are imprecise, but she lived to a great age and died on January 5 at ninety.
Oil dedicated to St Pharaildis was married against her will at a young age with a nobleman, even after having made a private vow of virginity. Her husband insisted that she was married to him, and her sexual fidelity was owed to him, not God. She was therefore physically abused for her refusal to submit to him, and for her late night visits to churches. When widowed, she was still a virgin, and dedicated herself to charity.
Pharaildis was the sister of St Gudula, St Reinildis, and St Emebert. However, this is not confirmed in her own biography, the Vita Pharaildis.
The cult of Pharaildis has been documented as early as the ninth century. She carries a goose as her insignia.
Her feast day is January 5. Pharaildis’s feast, Fru Verelde, was a major festival in Ghent in the late 19th century.
Several miracles are attributed to the saint. Legend says that Pharaildis caused a well to spring up whose waters cured sick children. Also, she turned some bread hidden by a miserly woman into stone. And also there are accounts of a “goose miracle,” in which Pharaildis resuscitated a cooked bird working only from its skin and bones.
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. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.