October 1, 2021: ST. REMIGIUS
October 1, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF ST. REMIGIUS, BISHOP AND CONFESSOR
[Apostle of the Franks, Archbishop of Rheims]
The Lord settled with him a covenant of peace, and made him a Chief that he may have the honor of Priesthood for ever.
Image Description: St. Remigius baptising King Clovis
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that the venerable solemnity of blessed Remigius, thy Confessor and Bishop, may improve our devotion, and strengthen in us the hopes of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Remigius, also called Remedius, was born at Laon, of noble parents by name Ӕmilius and St. Celinia. They were far advanced in age, and renowned among their own people for their virtue, when the birth of this child was foretold to them by a blind hermit named Montanus; who afterwards recovered his sight, by applying to his eyes some of the milk wherewith the infant Remigius was nourished. The future apostle of the Franks devoted his youth to prayer and study in retirement; but the more he shrank from the company of men, the more his fame spread throughout the province. On the death of Bennadius, archbishop of Rheims, Remigius, who though but twenty-two years of age had the mature character of an old man, was unanimously elected, or rather forcibly installed as archbishop. He endeavoured to escape the burden of the episcopate, but was obliged by the command of God to submit. Having been consecrated by the bishops of the province, he governed his church with the wisdom of an experienced veteran. He was eloquent, learned in the Scriptures; and a pattern to his people, fulfilling in deed what he taught by word. He carefully and laboriously instructed his own flock in the mysteries of faith, and established discipline among his clergy. Then he undertook to spread the kingdom of Christ in Belgium; and having converted the people to the faith, he founded several new bishoprics and appointed them pastors: at Terouanne St. Antimund or Aumont, at Arras St. Vedast, and at Laon St. Genebald.
The wonderful works of Remigius, being divulged far and wide, filled with astonishment the minds of Clovis and his still pagan Franks. When Clovis, who had already conquered the Gauls, triumphed over the Alemanni also at the battle of Tolbiac by the invocation of the name of Christ; he sent for Remigius, and willingly listened to his explanation of the Christian doctrine. Remigius urged the king to embrace the faith, but he replied that he feared the opposition of his people. When this was reported to the Franks, they cried out with one voice: ‘We renounce mortal gods, O pious king, and are ready to follow the immortal God whom Remigius preaches.’ Then the bishop imposed a fast upon them, according to the custom of the Church, and having in the presence of the queen St. Clotilde, completed the king's religions instruction, he baptized him on the day of our Lord’s Nativity, addressing him in these words: ‘Bow down thy head in meekness, O Sicambrian; adore what thou hast hitherto burnt, burn what thou hast adored.’ After the Baptism, he anointed him with holy chrism with the sign of the cross of Christ. More than three thousand of the army were baptized, as also Albofleda Clovis’s sister, who died soon after; upon which occasion Remigius wrote to console the king. His other sister, Lanthilda, was reclaimed from the Arian heresy, anointed with sacred chrism, and reconciled to the Church.
Remigius was exceedingly liberal to the poor and merciful towards sinners. ‘God has not placed us here,’ he would say, ‘to exercise wrath, but to take care of men.’ During a council, he once by divine power struck an Arian bishop with dumbness, until he begged forgiveness by signs, when he restored him his speech with these words: ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, if thou holdest the right belief concerning him, speak, and confess the faith of the Catholic Church.’ The bishop recovering his voice, protested that he believed, and would die in that faith. Towards the end of his life Remigius lost his sight, but recovered it shortly before his death. Knowing the day of his departure, he celebrated Mass, and fortified his flock with the sacred Body of Christ. Then he bade his clergy and people farewell, giving to each one the kiss of our Lord’s peace; and full of days and good works, he departed this life on the Ides of January, in the year of our Lord five hundred and thirty-three, being ninety-six years old. He was buried in the oratory of St. Christopher; and as in life, so also after death, he was famous for miracles.
Another account of St. Remigius.
St. Remigius, the great apostle of the French nation, was one of the brightest lights of the Gaulish church, illustrious for his learning, eloquence, sanctity, and miracles. An episcopacy of seventy years, and many great actions, have rendered his name famous in the annals of the church. His very birth was wonderful, and his life was almost a continued miracle of divine grace. His father, Emilius, and his mother, Cilinia, both descended of noble Gaulish families, enjoyed an affluent fortune, lived in splendour suitable to their rank at the castle of Laon, and devoted themselves to the exercise of all Christian virtues. St. Remigius seems to have been born in the year 439. He had two brothers older than himself, Principius, Bishop of Soissons, and another whose name is not known, but who was father of St. Lupus, who was afterwards one of his uncle's successors in the episcopal see of Soissons. A hermit, named Montanus, foretold the birth of our saint to his mother; and the pious parents had a special care of his education, looked upon him as a child blessed by heaven, and were careful to put him into the best hands.
St. Remigius had an excellent genius, made great progress in learning, and in the opinion of St. Apollinaris Sidonius, who was acquainted with him in the earlier part of his life, he became the most eloquent person in that age. He was remarkable from his youth for his extraordinary devotion and piety, and for the severity of his morals. A secret apartment, in which he spent a great part of his time in close retirement, in the castle of Laon, whilst he lived there, was standing in the ninth century, and was visited with devout veneration when Hincmar wrote. Our saint, earnestly thirsting after greater solitude, and the means of a more sublime perfection, left his father's house, and made choice of a retired abode, where, having only God for witness, he abandoned himself to the fervour of his zeal in fasting, watching, and prayer. The episcopal see of Rheims becoming vacant by the death of Bennagius, Remigius, though only twenty-two years of age, was compelled, notwithstanding his extreme reluctance, to take upon him that important charge; his extraordinary abilities seeming to the bishops of the province a sufficient reason for dispensing with the canons in point of age. In this new dignity, prayer, meditation on the holy scriptures, the instruction of the people, and the conversion of infidels, heretics, and sinners were the constant employment of the holy pastor. Such was the fire and unction with which he announced the divine oracles to all ranks of men, that he was called by many a second St. Paul. St. Apollinaris Sidonius was not able to find terms to express his admiration of the ardent charity and purity with which this zealous bishop offered at the altar an incense of sweet odour to God, and of the zeal with which by his words he powerfully subdued the wildest hearts, and brought them under the yoke of virtue, inspiring the lustful with the love of purity, and moving hardened sinners to bewail their offences with tears of sincere compunction. The same author, who, for his eloquence and piety was one of the greatest lights of the church in that age, testifies, that he procured copies of the sermons of this admirable bishop, which he esteemed an invaluable treasure; and says that in them he admired the loftiness of the thoughts, the judicious choice of the epithets, the gracefulness and propriety of the figures, and the justness, strength, and closeness of the reasoning, which he compares to the vehemence of thunder; the words flowed like a gentle river, but every part in each discourse was so naturally connected, and the style so even and smooth, that the whole carried with it an irresistible force. The delicacy and beauty of the thoughts and expression were at the same time enchanting, this being so smooth, that it might be compared to the smoothest ice or crystal, upon which a nail runs without meeting with the least rub or unevenness. Another main excellency of these sermons consisted in the sublimity of the divine maxims which they contained, and the unction and sincere piety with which they were delivered; but the holy bishop's sermons and zealous labours derived their greatest force from the sanctity of his life, which was supported by an extraordinary gift of miracles. Thus was St. Remigius qualified and prepared by God to be made the apostle of a great nation.
After Gaul had been for the space of about five hundred years one of the richest and most powerful provinces of the Roman empire, it fell into the hands of the French; but these new masters, far from extirpating or expelling the old Roman or Gaulish inhabitants, became, by a coalition with them, one people, and took up their language and manners. Clovis, at his accession to the crown, was only fifteen years old. He became the greatest conqueror of his age, and is justly styled the founder of the French monarchy. Even whilst he was a pagan he treated the Christians, especially the bishops, very well; spared the churches, and honoured holy men, particularly St. Remigius, to whom he caused one of the vessels of his church, which a soldier had taken away, to be returned, and because the man made some demur, slew him with his own hand. St. Clotildis, whom he married in 493, earnestly endeavoured to persuade him to embrace the faith of Christ; but he held out a long time against all her arguments, till, on the following occasion, God was pleased wonderfully to bring him to the confession of his holy name, and to dissipate that fear of the world which chiefly held him back so long, he being apprehensive lest his pagan subjects should take umbrage at such a change.
The Suevi and Alemanni in Germany assembled a numerous and valiant army, and, under the command of several kings, passed the Rhine, hoping to dislodge their countrymen the Franks, and obtain for themselves the glorious spoils of the Roman empire in Gaul. Clovis marched to meet them near his frontiers, and one of the fiercest battles recorded in history was fought at Tolbiac. In this engagement the king had given the command of the infantry to his cousin, Sigebert, fighting himself at the head of the cavalry. The shock of the enemy was so terrible, that Sigebert was in a short time carried wounded out of the field, and the infantry was entirely routed, and put to flight. Clovis saw the whole weight of the battle falling on his cavalry; yet stood his ground, fighting himself like a lion, covered with blood and dust, and encouraging his men to exert their utmost strength: he performed with them wonderful exploits of valour. Notwithstanding these efforts, they were at length bore down, and began to flee and disperse themselves; nor could they be rallied by the commands and entreaties of their king, who saw the battle upon which his empire depended, quite desperate. Clotildis had said to him in taking leave, “My lord, you are going to conquest; but in order to be victorious, invoke the God of the Christians: he is the sole Lord of the universe, and is styled the God of armies. If you address yourself to him with confidence, nothing can resist you. Though your enemies were a hundred against one, you would triumph over them.” The king called to mind these her words in his present extremity, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, said, with tears, “O Christ, whom Clotildis invokes as Son of the living God, I implore thy succour. I have called upon my gods, and find they have no power. I therefore invoke thee—I believe in thee. Deliver me from my enemies, and I will be baptized in thy name.” No sooner had he made this prayer than his scattered cavalry began to rally about his person; the battle was renewed with fresh vigour, and the chief king and generalissimo of the enemy being slain, the whole army threw down their arms and begged for quarter. Clovis granted them their lives and liberty upon condition that the country of the Suevi, in Germany, should pay him an annual tribute. This miraculous victory was gained in the fifteenth year of his reign, of Christ 496.
Clovis, from that memorable day, thought of nothing but of preparing himself for the holy layer of regeneration. In his return from this expedition he passed by Toul, and there took with him St. Vedast, a holy priest who led a retired life in that city, that he might be instructed by him in the faith during his journey: so impatient was he to fulfil his vow of becoming a Christian, that the least wilful delay appeared to him criminal. The queen, upon this news, sent privately to St. Remigius to come to her, and went with him herself to meet the king in Champagne. Clovis no sooner saw her, but he cried out to her, “Clovis has vanquished the Alemanni, and you have triumphed over Clovis. The business you have so much at heart is done; my baptism can be no longer delayed.” The queen answered, “To the God of hosts is the glory of both these triumphs due.” She encouraged him forthwith to accomplish his vow, and presented to him St. Remigius as the most holy bishop in his dominions. This great prelate continued his instruction, and prepared him for baptism by the usual practices of fasting, penance, and prayer. Clovis suggested to him that he apprehended the people that obeyed him would not be willing to forsake their gods, but said he would speak to them according to his instructions. He assembled the chiefs of his nation for this purpose; but they prevented his speaking, and cried out with a loud voice, “My lord, we abandon mortal gods, and are ready to follow the immortal God, whom Remigius teaches.” St. Remigius and St. Vedast therefore instructed and prepared them for baptism. Many bishops repaired to Rheims for this solemnity, which they judged proper to perform on Christmas-day, rather than to defer it till Easter. The king set the rest an example of compunction and devotion, laying aside his purple and crown, and, covered with ashes, imploring night and day the divine mercy. To give an external pomp to this sacred action, in order to strike the senses of a barbarous people, and impress a sensible awe and respect upon their minds, the good queen took care that the streets from the palace to the great church should be adorned with rich hangings, and that the church and baptistery should be lighted up with a great number of perfumed wax tapers, and scented with exquisite odours. The catechumens marched in procession, carrying crosses and singing the Litany. St. Remigius conducted the king by the hand, followed by the queen and the people. Coming near the sacred font, the holy bishop, who had with great application softened the heart of this proud barbarian conqueror into sentiments of Christian meekness and humility, said to him, “Bow down your neck with meekness, great Sicambrian prince; adore what you have hitherto burnt, and burn what you Lave hitherto adored.” Words which may be emphatically addressed to every penitent, to express the change of his heart and conduct, in renouncing the idols of his passions, and putting on the spirit of sincere Christian piety and humility. The king, after his baptism, bestowed many lands on St. Remigius, who distributed them to several churches, as he did the donations of several others among the Franks, lest they should imagine he had attempted their conversion out of interest. He gave a considerable part to St. Mary's Church, at Laon, where he had been brought up; and established Genebald, a nobleman skilled in profane and divine learning, first bishop of that see. He had married a niece of St. Remigius, but was separated from her to devote himself to the practices of piety. Such was the original of the bishopric of Laon, which before was part of the diocess of Rheims. St. Remigius also constituted Theodore bishop of Tournay, in 487, St. Vedast, bishop of Arras in 498, and of Cambray in 510. He sent Antimund to preach the faith to the Morini, and to found the church of Terouenne. Clovis built churches in many places, conferred upon them great riches, and by an edict invited all his subjects to embrace the Christian faith. St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, wrote to him a letter of congratulation, upon his baptism, and exhorts him to send ambassadors to the remotest German nations beyond the Rhine, to solicit them to open their hearts to the faith.
When Clovis was preparing to march against Alaric, in 506, St. Remigius sent him a letter of advice how to govern his people so as to draw down upon himself the divine blessings. “Choose,” said he, “wise counsellors, who will be an honour to your name. Respect the clergy. Be the father and protector of your people; let it be your study to lighten as much as possible all the burdens which the necessities of the state may oblige them to bear; comfort and relieve the poor; feed the orphans; protect widows; suffer no extortion. Let the gate of your palace be open to all, that every one may have recourse to you for justice; employ your great revenues in redeeming captives,” &c. Clovis after his victories over the Visigoths, and the conquest of Toulouse, their capital in Gaul, sent a circular letter to all the bishops in his dominions, in which he allowed them to give liberty to any of the captives he had taken, but desired them only to make use of this privilege in favour of persons of whom they had some knowledge. Under the protection of this great monarch, St. Remigius wonderfully propagated the gospel of Christ by the conversion of a great part of the French nation; in which work God endowed him with an extraordinary gift of miracles, as we are assured not only by Hincmar, Flodoard, and all other historians who have mentioned him, but also by other incontestable monuments and authorities. Not to mention his Testament, in which mention is made of his miracles, the bishops who were assembled in the celebrated conference that was held at Lyons against the Arians in his time, declared they were stirred up to exert their zeal in defence of the Catholic faith by the example of Remigius, “Who,” say they, “hath everywhere destroyed the altars of the idols by a multitude of miracles and signs.” The chief among these prelates were Stephen, Bishop of Lyons, St. Avitus of Vienne, his brother Apollinaris of Valence, and Eonius of Aries. They all went to wait upon Gondebald, the Arian King of the Burgundians, who was at Savigny, and entreated him to command his Arian bishops to hold a public conference with them. When he showed much unwillingness they all prostrated themselves before him, and wept bitterly. The king was sensibly affected at the sight, and kindly raising them up, promised to give them an answer soon after. They went back to Lyons, and the king returning thither the next day, told them their desire was granted. It was the eve of St. Justus and the Catholic bishops passed the whole night in the church of that saint in devout prayer; the next day, at the hour appointed by the king, they repaired to his palace, and, before him and many of his senators, entered upon the disputation, St. Avitus speaking for the Catholics, and one Boniface for the Arians. The latter answered only by clamours and injurious language, treating the Catholics as worshippers of three Gods. The issue of a second meeting, some days after, was the same with that of the first; and many Arians were converted. Gondebald himself, sometime after, acknowledged to St. Avitus, that he believed the Son and the Holy Ghost to be equal to the Father, and desired him to give him privately the unction of the holy chrism. St. Avitus said to him, “Our Lord declares, ‘Whoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father.’ You are a king, and have no persecution to fear, as the apostles had. You fear a sedition among the people, but ought not to cherish such a weakness. God does not love him, who, for an earthly kingdom, dares not confess him before the world.” The king knew not what to answer; but never had the courage to make a public profession of the Catholic faith. St. Remigius by his zealous endeavours promoted the Catholic interest in Burgundy, and entirely crushed both idolatry and the Arian heresy in the French dominions. In a synod he converted, in his old age, an Arian bishop who came thither to dispute against him. King Clovis died in 511. St. Remigius survived him many years, and died in the joint reign of his four sons on the 13th of January, in the year, 533, according to Rivet, and in the ninety-fourth year of his age, having been bishop above seventy years. The age before the irruption of the Franks had been of all others the most fruitful in great and learned men in Gaul; but studies were there at the lowest ebb from the time of St. Remigius's death, till they were revived in the reign of Charlemagne. The body of this holy archbishop was buried in St. Christopher's church at Rheims, and found incorrupt when it was taken up by Archbishop Hincmar in 852. Pope Leo IX during a council which he held at Rheims in 1049, translated it into the Church of the Benedictin Abbey, which bears his name in that city, on the 1st of October, on which day, in memory of this and other translations, he appointed this festival to be celebrated which, in Florus and other calendars, was before marked on the 13th of January. In 1646 this saint's body was again visited by the archbishop with many honourable witnesses, and found incorrupt and whole in all its parts; but the skin was dried, and stuck to the winding-sheet, as it was described by Hincmar above eight hundred years before. It is now above [fourteen] hundred years since his death.
Care, watchings, and labours were sweet to this good pastor, for the sake of souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Knowing what pains our Redeemer took, and how much he suffered for sinners, during the whole course of his mortal life, and how tenderly his divine heart is ever open to them, this faithful minister was never weary in preaching, exhorting, mourning, and praying for those that were committed to his charge. In imitation of the good shepherd and prince of pastors, he was always ready to lay down his life for their safety; he bore them all in his heart, and watched over them, always trembling lest any among them should perish, especially through his neglect: for he considered with what indefatigable rage the wolf watched continually to devour them. As all human endeavours are too weak to discover the wiles, and repulse the assaults of the enemy, without the divine light and strength, this succour he studied to obtain by humble supplications; and when he was not taken up in external service for his flock, he secretly poured forth his soul in devout prayer before God for himself and them.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Remigius, pray for us.