Oil Dedicated to St Alice of Schaerbeek
St Alice of Schaerbeek, a Cistercian laysister who venerated as the patron saint of the blind and paralyzed. Her feast day is June 15.
Alice was born at Schaerbeek, near Brussels. A frail child, at the age of seven, she sent to be boarded and educated at the Cistercian La Cambray Abbey. There she remained for the rest of her life.
Alice was a very pretty girl. Also, she showed a high intelligence and a great love for God. She became a laysister at the abbey. However, at some 20 years of age (c. 1240), she contracted leprosy. She to be isolated in a small hut. The disease caused her intense suffering. She offered it up for the salvation of sinners and the souls in purgatory.
Eventually, she became paralyzed and afflicted with blindness. Her greatest consolation came from the reception of the Holy Eucharist. She not allowed to drink from the chalice because of the presumed danger of contamination. However, it is said that the Lord appeared to her with assurance that He in both the consecrated bread and the wine. She died in 1250, at the age of 30.
The little we know about Alice’s life comes from a Latin biography, composed c. 1260-1275. Authorship of the work is unknown. Scholars have typically believed that the author was a chaplain at La Cambray Abbey. However, Martinus Cawley suggests that Arnulf II of Ghistelles, abbot of Villers Abbey, is its likely author. Alice’s biography was also translated into Middle Dutch, as witnessed by one extant manuscript.
Pope Clement XI granted to the monks of the Congregation of St. Bernard Fuliensi the faculty to celebrate the cultus of Alice. Devotion to Alice as a saint was approved in 1907 by Pope Pious X.
Response to Alice’s life
Alice’s biography has upheld as a model of Cistercian spirituality. Writing in 1954, Trappist monk Thomas Merton, called the text “a practical and concise treatise of Cistercian asceticism. Nevertheless, Alice of Schaerbeek not particularly well known. Chyrsogone Waddell, reflecting on his entry into the Cistercian life in the 1950s, remarked on her obscurity, with Alice being mostly unknown even in devout Cistercian communities of the time.
In recent years, Alice has become more well known in medieval scholarship as a member of the so-called “Holy Women of Liege”. This situates Alice, and her spirituality, in terms of the beguine movement, an innovation in medieval women’s piety that saw women taking up an active religious life outside of monastic enclosure.