Saturday, November 17, 2012

St. Hugh of Lincoln: An Example for Bishops

St. Hugh is often pictured with a swan; one was
present at his ordination, apparently, and he kept
it as a pet. It is said that it kept watch over him
while he slept. So...he's the patron saint of swans,
among other things (like sick people). Who'd'a thunk?!

Today, November 17, St. Hugh of Lincoln is remembered by the Church.

St. Hugh was born into a noble family; his mother died when he was 8 years old, and his father took Hugh with him to live in an Augustinian monastery. Hugh took religious vows as an Augustinian, but later became a Carthusian monk.

In the course of his duties as a Carthusian, Hugh was sent from to England to be the prior of the Carthusian monastery there – which remained to be built! Overcoming hardship and obstacles, St. Hugh was successful in establishing the Charterhouse and effectively administering it.

Eventually, Hugh was made bishop of the diocese in that area, and he remained in that office for the rest of his life.

What really strikes me about St. Hugh in light of the current state of affairs in our nation and in the world is his willingness to stand up to the ruling powers of the day. He wasn’t afraid to tell them their shortcomings, nor was he afraid to defy their orders when they were unjust.

Here’s a telling paragraph from the Catholic Encyclopedia (my emphases):

In July, 1188, [St. Hugh] went on an embassy to the French king, and was in France at the time of Henry's death. He returned the following year and was present at Richard I's coronation; in 1191 he was in conflict with Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and justiciar, whose unjust commands he refused to obey, and in 1194-5 was a prominent defender of Archbishop Geoffrey of York, in the dispute between that prelate and his chapter.

Hugh was also prominent in trying to protect the Jews, great numbers of whom lived in Lincoln, in the persecution they suffered at the beginning of Richard's reign, and he put down popular violence against them in several places.

In Richard I, Hugh found a more formidable person to deal with than his predecessor had been. [Richard’s] unjust demands, however, he was resolute in opposing. In a council held at Oxford, in 1198, the justiciar, Archbishop Hubert, asked from the bishops and barons a large grant of money and a number of knights for the king's foreign wars. Hugh refused on the ground that he was not bound to furnish money or soldiers for wars undertaken outside of England. His example was followed by Herbert of Salisbury, and the archbishop had to yield. Richard flew into one of his fits of rage, and ordered the confiscation of Hugh's property, but no one dared to lay hands on it. The saint journeyed to Normandy, met Richard at Chateau-Gaillard and, having won the monarch's forgiveness and admiration by his extraordinary courage, proceeded to rebuke him fearlessly for his faults — his infidelity to his wife, and encroachments on the Church's rights.

"Truly", said Richard to his courtiers, "if all the prelates of the Church were like him, there is not a king in Christendom who would dare to raise his head in the presence of a bishop."

St. Hugh of Lincoln, pray for our bishops of today, all over the world!

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