Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cordelia Therese

Cordelia Therese Lowman
Love, and be silent.  

            Our second daughter, Cordelia Therese, was born a few days ago on May 3, 2016. We chose the name Cordelia for some of the same reasons we chose Felicity, our first daughter’s name. The scope of our search was limited to the saints. Like St. Felicity, we chose the name of an early martyr in the Roman Empire, St. Cordula, who was a companion of the famous St. Ursula, and possibly also royalty.

Altarpiece of the legend of St. Ursula (Bruges)

            Returning to England from a pilgrimage to Rome in the fifth century, the Christian princess St. Ursula, accompanied by a fleet of ships full of eleven thousand and ten other virgins, one of whom was St. Cordula, were attacked by the pagan Huns in Cologne and, refusing to deny Christ, were martyred. However, one of the virgins, St. Cordula, terrified by the tortures and slaughter of the others, hid herself deep on board her ship and went undiscovered throughout the night. When morning came, St. Cordula repented her deed and declared herself to the Huns of her own accord, and thus was the last of the virgins to receive the crown of martyrdom.
            Almost a millennium later, on the Feast of St. Valentine, 1277, at the church of St. John the Baptist in Cologne, the body of St. Cordula was discovered. From the place where Brother Ingebrad of the Order of St. John discovered her body, a most pleasant fragrance exhaled and he saw on her forehead these words written: “Cordula, Queen and Virgin.”
            St. Albert the Great who was in Cologne at the time, when he heard of the finding of her relics, wept tears of joy, praised God from the depth of his soul, and requested the bystanders to sing the Te Deum. St. Albert then vested himself in his episcopal robes, removed the relics from under the earth, and solemnly translated them into the church of the monks of St. John. After singing Mass, he deposited the holy body in a suitable place, which God has since made illustrious by many miracles (this account is according to Joachim Sighart).
            The name “Cordelia” is a derivative of Cordula. While Cordula may be a diminutive of the Latin cors or cordis, meaning "heart,” it may also be the case that “delia” is a diminutive of the German name Adela, meaning “noble.” While the name “Cordula” was used in Germany in the 16th century, the name “Cordelia” began to be popular in England following the 1608 performance of Shakespeare’s play, “King Lear,” in which the character Cordelia is one of King Lear’s three daughters. Shakespeare likely took this name from the legendary queen of the Britons, Cordiella, the daughter of the legendary King Leir.
            In Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear’s daughters are named Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. When the elderly Lear requests that his daughters tell him how much they love him in return for one third of the land of his kingdom, Goneril and Regan give lavish speeches of flattery in order to ensure their inheritance and ascend to power. Cordelia refuses to partake in such games, and responds, “I love your majesty according to my bond; no more nor less.” When pressed, Cordelia explains further:

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all. 

            In response to this, although Cordelia is Lear’s favorite daughter, he banishes her from the kingdom. Goneril and Regan sideline Lear in Cordelia’s absence, and Lear descends into madness. Cordelia returns from France at the end of the play with an army, forgives Lear, but is ultimately captured and hanged.
            Here is a prayer we wrote for Cordelia Therese to pray when she is older:

St. Cordula, noblest heart be thine!
Though once a daughter of the sea,
Thou declared thyself cheerfully
As last of the early Ursulines
To earn her crown on Calvary.

Virgin queen, with cordial duliance
I supplicate thee thy light to shine,
As by lunette, upon my latence,
And clothe me in celestial fragrance
That I too may see His sacred shrine.