Sunday, April 1, 2007

St. Hugh of Grenoble (1052-1132)

Today’s saint, Hugh of Grenoble , may be best known as patron and benefactor of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order.

I was amazed to learn that today’s saint is St. Hugh of Grenoble. What a wonderful coincidence that the post earlier today (actually late last night) was about the film Into Great Silence !

From Saints of the Day: St. Hugh of Grenoble could be a patron for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world that we don’t know where to begin.
Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start. Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance. After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill. He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.
Ironically, Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character. In conflicts between Church and state he was an unflinching defender of the Church. He fearlessly supported the papacy. He was eloquent as a preacher. He restored his own cathedral, made civic improvements in the town and weathered a brief exile.
Hugh died in 1132. He was canonized only two years later.

A more detailed history follows. I found this detailed information in an article at ­­­­­­­­­­­­St Although more lengthy than the synopsis above, I have abridged the article quite extensively.

St. Hugh of Grenoble, April 1

St. Hugh of Grenoble won hearts through his courtesy, modesty, humility and honor. His good looks and a diffident manner, added to his abilities led him to underrate his own talents and learning. The pope consecrated Hugh as bishop though he was barely 30.
Hugh discovered that diocese of Grenoble, to which he was assigned, was in a far worse state than he had imagined. Hugh manfully set about putting matters aright.

Two years after his consecration, feeling that he was failing, Hugh left the city and withdrew to the abbey of Chaise- Dieu (Cluniac).
This was the first of several times he despaired because of his lack of progress and went to live as a monk. "But I repeat to you that I can't do anything that's good and worthwhile!" he complained gently to those who wanted him to give up this sudden Benedictine vocation and his seeming lack of faith.
Each time the pope insisted that he must take up the struggle again. "Very well, granted. You can't do anything, my son," Pope Saint Gregory VII said to him, "but you are bishop, and the sacrament can do everything." Each time Hugh obeyed.

In 1084 Saint Bruno and his companions came in search of silence, solitude, and a perpetual conversation with God on the fringes of the scandals of the world. Hugh was waiting for them. He rolled up his cassock and, like a guide, led them through the craggy rocks of the desert called the Chartreuse. He gave this land to the monks who built there the famous monastery of Grande Chartreuse. The charter Hugh gave them still exists.

Hugh often visited the monks at Grande Chartreuse. When he visited them in their solitude, Hugh would join in their exercises and perform the most menial tasks. Hugh's close association with the Carthusians has ensured the custom that the diocesan bishop was always expected (contrary to other monastic orders) to guide and cherish Charterhouses in their diocese.

    It may have been humility that unwittingly made Hugh such a good bishop.
  • Out of the shame that he was better nourished, housed, and dressed than the poor, he sold his ring, other jewels, furs, a golden chalice, and ornaments to raise money and gave it to those in need. His generosity stirred other rich men to liberally follow his example.
  • He wept when he heard a penitent's confession and when the disorders of his retinue were brought to his attention, he blamed himself as though it were a personal fault.

    Hugh of Grenoble also
    · founded three hospitals at Grenoble
    · built a marketplace
    · provided a stone bridge over the Isere
    · restored the cathedral
    · restored Saint Laurence's Church

    During his 52-year episcopacy, Hugh vainly tendered his resignation to each pope--Gregory VII, Gelasius II, Calixtus II, Honorius II, Innocent II, and others--and they refused him.

    For 52 years Hugh labored as bishop of Grenoble, dying at age 79, having restored the diocese both financially and morally. He took upon himself all the sins of others, and the cross that he carried was so heavy laden, so holy, and so redemptive that two years after his death, he was canonized amid the jubilation of the people and of his church. Saint Hugh is invoked against headache.

In art, Saint Hugh is a bishop seeing a vision of seven stars. Sometimes he is shown

  • with a lantern
  • with three flowers
  • with Saint Bruno, to whom he entrusted the Grande Chartreuse; or
  • turning partridges served to Carthusians on a fast day into tortoises (Roeder).

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