The Amazing Story of St Christina The Astonishing
As told by Sister Belinda of the Convent of Saint Trond in Beligium
The Reverend Mother has just told us that a little girl from the village will be coming to us for meals occasionally. She was orphaned a few months ago when she was fifteen, and she lives with two older sisters in the village. Reverend Mother says that she is very naughty sometimes, and her sisters often refuse to have anything to do with her. That is why she will come to us for meals. I can't think what her sisters must be like to turn her away. Children are so sweet, and she can't be that bad, surely. Anyway, I am to be in charge of her.
Well! The trouble that girl Christina drags herself into! Today she made herself into a ball as she has seen the hedgehogs do and rolled down the long hall to give us all a fright! When I finally caught her and dusted her dress down and tidied her hair, she was gone again. I only turned to pick up a ribbon! I've heard what she can be like, off for days on her own, and I'm not one to go looking for trouble, so I decided to leave it for a few minutes, before going out to hunt for the nuisance. I was about to make a nice soothing cup of chamomile tea, for my nerves, when I heard this voice coming from the corner of the room. Let me tell you, it gave me a bit of a turn. I thought it was Satan himself coming to take me! I never did tell the Reverend Mother about that broken vase, and it's been on my conscience ever since. Then, out of the cupboard in the opposite corner of the room pops Christina, laughing all over her face. She obviously hadn't heard any voice, so I felt sure that it must have been Satan, speaking only to me. I grabbed Christina by the hair, and pulled her towards the door. "Did you not hear that voice?" I screamed. "Of course I heard it," she replied, as cool as a jug of washing water first thing in the morning. "Don't you realise, Sister Belinda, that was me making the noise!" Imagine my relief when she told me that she's always been able to throw her voice like that! She gave it a very long name, ventriloquism or something I think.
I had just dusted her off and tidied her hair for the second time, when she was gone again. We found her, several hours later, in the mill pool three miles away. She had been holding onto the mill wheel and letting herself be whirled round and round on the wheel. And there was not a scratch on her! Well, she got into a fair bit of trouble for that. If she was not so thin as she is, she could have been torn to pieces by the sharp stones on the bottom of the pool. "But," she protested, "I never have been hurt, and I do love the feeling as the water around the wheel rushes past me!" We told her that if she continued with this, we would tell her sisters that she should be locked up inside her house where she could not hurt herself. That had an effect. She immediately cried out, "but that would be just like being one of the poor souls in Purgatory! I love to be free, and I think I would rather die than be locked up." I felt so sorry for her that I just dusted off her dress and tidied her hair and took her back to the convent for prayers. Everyone here loves her, she is so funny with her naughty ways, but I must confess that I am beginning to realise why her sisters feel as they do.
It's a year now since I first met Christina, and she has not grown any less of a nuisance or trial. She still throws her voice and rolls around like a hedgehog, and she still plays on the mill wheel. And yet, there is more to her than meets the eye. After the first few weeks of seeing her, I began to realise that she is constantly praying. Of course, I don't mean that she is constantly reciting the 'Our Father'. She would drown if she did that whilst being pulled under water by a mill wheel, but that she always seems to be in the presence of God, even when she is scaring us out of our wits with her tricks. She never does anything out of spite, just to amuse herself and us. You will I hope, diary, remember what she said this time last year about the poor souls in purgatory. It seems that, as she grows, she remembers them more and more. She is always praying for them and asking God to let her share some of their pain and misery. She often gives up her food, or sleeps without a blanket for the sake of the poor souls in purgatory. She is very close to Our Lord. And yet, she never grows solemn or staid. She still drives her poor sisters mad. As she grows older, she drives them to distraction more and more often, and comes to drive me to distraction more and more often. Yet we all love her and her jokes.
I have been made Reverend Mother of the convent! I am now in charge of all the sisters. It is a great honour. I do hope that none of them are quite as naughty as young Christina was. Do you remember Christina? She was the young orphan girl from the village. Well, as the years have passed she has grown closer to God. She now dresses in rags for the sake of the poor souls in purgatory. She lives in huts, sheds, farm buildings or wherever anyone will let her stay. She still prays constantly, and yet she still does not grow solemn or staid. Most people call her eccentric, but I know better. I know that she only does all these things because she is so sorry for the poor people in purgatory whose souls are not free as she is. I still see her occasionally. She told me today that she has met the Baron of the Castle. She and the Baron are great friends, she said. He understands her as I do. He can see through her acrobatics and nonsense to her loving, unselfish soul. And yet, although she has tried for many hours to make him, the Baron, he will not mend his bad ways and live as poorly as Christina, or even accept that her way of life is better than his wealth.
Christina has come to live with us at the convent of Saint Trond. She is too old and frail now to look after herself, and she has come here where I can keep an eye on her, just as I used to all those years ago. Many people visit the convent just to ask for her advice. The Baron died a few years ago at a battle with the French. As he lay wounded, he sent for Christina. They talked together about God and death for many hours, and he died that same day having repented his ways.
Christina is dead. She died late last night. She had been out talking about God with all the people who come to visit her every day, and was very tired. I smoothed down her nightdress and tidied her hair, when suddenly she was gone. I knew at once that she was with the Lord from the peaceful expression on her tired face.
The most amazing thing ever to take place in the convent of Saint Trond happened today. During the requiem Mass for Christina's soul, I realised that she had not said goodbye to me or to any of the other sisters before she died. 'We can't have that, can we?" I asked her, and immediately she rose from the open coffin and into the rafters of the church. She then said goodbye to every single person in the convent. Finally she came to me. She whispered a secret in my ear so wonderful that I will never tell anyone. Then she rose to Heaven to be with God again. Christina's life should be a lesson to everyone in years to come. You do not have to be solemn and staid to be a saint, Christina certainly wasn't! You just have to be devoted to God and to pray for and help others, as she did. I do hope she is happy with God.
Hannah Marshall, Year 9
St. Michael's Convent School,
Barnet, North London.