Saint of the Day – 4 February – Saint Rabanus Maurus OSB (776-856) Archbishop, Monk, Abbot,Theologian, Poet, Writer, Teacher, Encyclopedist – also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus and “The Teacher of Germany” – born in 776 at Mainz, Germany and died on 4 February 856 at Winkel, Germany of natural cause. In the most recent edition of the Roman Martyrology (Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, pp. 133), his feast is given as today and he is qualified as a Saint (‘sanctus’).
Rabanus was born of noble parents in Mainz. The exact date of his birth remains uncertain, but in 801 he was ordained a deacon at Benedictine Abbey of Fulda in Hesse, where he had been sent to school and had become a monk. At the insistence of Ratgar, his abbot, he went to complete his studies at Tours. There he studied under St Alcuin(735-804) , who in recognition of his diligence and purity gave him the surname of Maurus, after the favourite disciple of Benedict, Saint Maurus.
Returning to Fulda, in 803 he was entrusted with the principal charge of the abbey school, which, under his direction, became one of the most pre-eminent centres of scholarship and book production in Europe and sent forth many erudite and saintly pupils. It was probably at this period that he compiled his excerpt from the grammar of Priscian, a popular textbook during the Middle Ages. According to Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Rabanus ate no meat and drank no wine.
In 814 Rabanus was ordained a priest. Shortly afterwards, apparently on account of disagreement with Abbot Ratgar, he withdrew for a time from Fulda. This banishment has long been understood to have occasioned a pilgrimage to Palestine, based on an allusion in his commentary on Joshua. Rabanus returned to Fulda in 817 on the election of a new abbot, Eigil, and at Eigil’s death in 822, Rabanus himself became abbot.He handled this position efficiently and successfully but in 842 he resigned so as to have greater leisure for study and prayer, retiring to the neighbouring monastery of St Petersberg.
In 847, he was chosen to be Archbishop of Mainz, at the age of sixty-three and the last years of his life were spent directing the affairs of his Diocese, holding provincial Synods and directing a multitude of charitable works. During a famine, he fed three hundred poor people at his own house. He became bedridden shortly before his death and from the moment of his death was regarded as a saint.
Blessed Rabanus composed a number of hymns, the most famous of which is the Veni Creator Spiritus. This is a hymn to the Holy Spirit often sung at Pentecost and at ordinations. It is known in English through many translations, including Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest and Creator Spirit, by whose aid. Veni Creator Spiritus was used by Gustav Mahler as the first chorale of his eighth symphony.
One of his most popular and enduring works is a spectacular collection of poems centred on the cross, called De laudibus sanctae crucis or In honorem sanctae crucis, a set of highly sophisticated poems that present the cross (and, in the last poem, Rabanus himself kneeling before it) in word and image, even in numbers.
He was buried at the monastery of St Alban’s in Mainz but later his relics were transferred to Halle.