in a hagiography of a religious figure a Christian writer would find
it preferable to portray his or her religion as legitimately rooted
in an inimitable figure such as Christ. The saints are so inspired by
this figure that it seems only natural that they should be shown as
endowed with incredible powers as a result of their closeness to Him.
Upon receiving the eucharist many women experienced an "ecstatic
union with Christ."33 Because of their intimate association
with the religious symbol of Christ, it is in the interest of the authors
of saints' biographies to emphasize their miracles and superhuman experiences,
such as surviving for extended periods of time without ordinary food.
For this reason, many accounts depict the life-sustaining power of the
eucharist. For example, Lidwina of Schiedam is believed to have survived
on it alone in the final years of her life.34 Eucharistic
devotion was portrayed as stronger and more common among pious women
than men. Many holy women felt an insatiable hunger for the eucharist
and sometimes hurried to visit numerous churches in one day in order
to observe the eucharist several times.35 There are numerous
stories of intense eucharistic devotion in women, and in many of them,
the female subject receives some type of resistance from church authorities
who advise against frequent communion.36 However, the persistence
of their eucharistic piety in the face of opposition serves to strengthen
their image as devout and spiritual and thus encourages piety in others.
Sometimes when "religious superiors denied the cup or the host
to women [...] Christ often fed them directly in visions."37
There are instances of such visions which involved women nursing from
a lactating Christ.38 These events are quite common in the
biographies of female saints. It is probable that the emphasis on supernatural
or miraculous occurrences in the hagiographies contributed to the widespread
adoption of the saint's lifestyle pattern.