St. Casilda

Saint Casilda was born in the 10th century into a Muslim family in the city of Toledo, Spain.  Her father was an emir, or prince.  This was at a time when the Moors had invaded southern Spain.   The Moors were Muslims from the northwest corner of Africa, including Arabs and Berbers.  They came to Spain in 711, bringing their culture and religion and architecture with them. Much of what we think of now as typical Spanish style came to us from the Moors.  The cities of Cordoba, Granada, Toledo and Seville flourished under Moorish culture.  

As a young girl, Casilda showed great generosity and kindness to the Christian prisoners in Toledo, bringing them food, medicine, and other necessities.  One legend tells how she was stopped by prison guards when smuggling food hidden in the folds of her skirts.  When they demanded to see what she was hiding, she opened the folds of her skirts and they found only roses. 

The Miracle of the Roses is a common theme in the lives of the saints.  Roses can announce the presence or activity of God.  Similar stories are told about Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), Elisabeth of Portugal (1271-1336), Didacus of Alcala, Rita of Cascia,  and in the New World, Juan Diego at the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe (1531).  Roses are also associated with St. Therese of Lisieux.

As a young woman, Casilda was taken ill, much like the woman with a flow of blood in Luke 8:43-48.  Moorish physicians were unable or unwilling to help her.  At the suggestion of the Christian prisoners she had befriended, she traveled to northern Iberia where there had been stories of miraculous healings. Her father gave his permission for this journey very reluctantly, and she traveled with an entourage befitting a Muslim princess to the lakes of San Vicente de Briviesca in the Catholic kingdom of Castile.   After drinking from the healing waters at the shrine of San Vicente, she was healed.  With gratitude like that of the woman with the flow of blood in Luke, she converted to Christianity and was baptized at Burgos. 

She spent the remainder of her life as a hermitess in cave in the hills.  Legend says she lived to be 100 years old. She died around the year 1050, at La Buraba, Castile, Spain.  Her body was found in her cave and moved to the church of San Vicente.   Her feast day is April 9. 

Although she is not well known outside of Spain, in the eighteenth century a great shrine was was built on the site of her cave.  She has been memorialized by some of the great artists and writers of Spain, and her portrait hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

We can learn many lessons from Casilda.  She was kind and generous to those of other faiths.  She perservered in seeking healing, and recognized God when she found Him.

 

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