Mary of Oignies
Mary of Oignies was born to a wealthy Belgian family in 1167. Although she wished to become a nun her parents made her marry at the age of fourteen. Her husband was impressed with her piety and honored her wish for chastity. Together, they opened their home as a hospital for lepers, nursed the sick, and gave away most of their fortune.
Mary always wore white, abstained from eating meat, and had the unusual gift of tears. If she looked at a crucifix or thought about Jesus, she was so overcome with grief at Christ's suffering, she began to sob. Communion was a mystical experience for her. She sometimes fainted, or sang in verse.
As Mary's prayer life deepened, she felt a mystical union with God. She saw visions and gave spiritual guidance to pilgrims until the constant stream of people coming to her got in the way of her own spiritual practices. She left her husband and home and joined the Augustinian Monastery of Oignes where she lived in retreat until her death in 1213.