Berka Zdislava was from a Moravian family, born in Křižanov, in what is now the Žďár nad Sázavou District of the Czech Republic. She was reportedly an unusually devout child, who at age seven ran away into the forest with the intention of living a hermit’s life of prayer and solitude. She was forcibly returned by her family, and made to live a normal childhood from that point on.
During her childhood, she had gone with her mother to serve Queen Kunegunda, who probably first exposed her to the Dominicans. It is possible that Zdislava met St. Hyacinth and Bl. Ceslaus, and she eventually became a lay Dominican. She continued to live a devout life, receiving Holy Communion nearly every day (which was an extremely rare practice in the beginning of the 13th century). She also had visions and worked many miracles (including raising someone from the dead)
Later, her family arranged for her to marry Bohemian lord Havel of Markvartice. He was a good man, but he tested Zdislava’s patience by asking her to dress in a worldly manner and join in his somewhat indulgent feasts.
As a married woman with four children, Zdislava continued to live a life of remarkable personal austerity, worked tirelessly in the care of the poor and dispossessed, and was, unusually for her era, a frequent recipient of the Eucharist. Tatar invasions of Central Europe (1240–42) were causing large numbers of people to leave their homes during this period, and a large number of refugees sought refuge at the Lemberk Castle in northern Bohemia, where Zdislava lived with her family and assisted these refugees as much as possible.Read More »