Saint Zdislava Berka
Died 1252 A.D.
Zdislava is a Slavic name that means “Fame, Glory.” Berka is a Czech, Slavic, and Polish name that means “Birch Tree.”
Zdislava learned how to be a saint in ways she had not anticipated. This is something we all have to learn.
Zdislava was born in the early 13th century in Bohemia which is now part of the Czech Republic in Europe. She had a strong faith in God from her youth, and at the age of seven ran off into the forest with the intention of living as a hermit and doing prayer and penance. Of course, her parents found her and brought her home. She had to spend the rest of her childhood as a normal little girl, and when she was old enough, her parents arranged for her to marry a wealthy count. She and the count had four children.
Zdislava lived a very frugal and prayerful life and cared for the poor and the people who had lost their homes. At this time pagan tribes were invading Europe and forcing many people from their homes. She allow these people to come and live in the castle where she and her husband lived. Her husband treated her somewhat brutally, but she responded with patience and gentleness that eventually caused her husband to allow her great freedom in her practices of devotion, her fasting, and her works of charity. However, he thought that her charity was excessive and one day, when he wanted to remove a sick beggar from a bed in the castle, he found not the beggar but an image of Christ crucified there instead. This seemed to change his mind about Zdislava‘s charity.
Now the count allowed Zdislava to found a Dominican convent of nuns, and she supported this convent until her death. Although many people did not receive the Eucharist except perhaps once in their life on their deathbed, Zdislava received the Eucharist almost daily. When she grew very ill, she told her husband and children that she would help them more from heaven than she could on earth. She was buried in the monastery that she founded, and she appeared in glory to her husband after her death.
Zdislava had wanted to be a hermit who spent her life in prayer. Instead she was a married woman with a family and a husband who was not always understanding. Within her lifestyle, she was able to still pray and live a poor life devoted to Jesus. She shows us that God’s ways are not always ours, but we can become saints anyway.