Saint of the Day – 16 April – Saint Fructuosus of Braga (Died 665) Archbishop of Braga, Spain, Hermit, Confessor, Monk, Abbot, a great Founder of Monasteries – born in the early 7th century in Spain and died on 16 April 665 of natural causes. Patronage – Braga.
He was the son of a Duke in the region of Bierzo and at a young age accompanied his father on official trips over his estates. After the death of his parents, Fructuosus first sought instruction from the Bishop of Palencia, studying theology in the Seminary. Fructuosus then sold his estates and distributed most of the proceeds among the poor but saved a portion to establish Monasteries. He initially retired as a hermit to a desert in Galicia. Many pupils gathered around him and thus originated the Monastery of Complutum in the El Bierzo region, over which he himself at first presided, later, he appointed an Abbot and again retired into the desert. In the course of time, he founded nine other Monasteries, including one for women under the Abbess Benedicta.
We have two extant rules composed by Fructuosus – one called Complutum, the other the common rule. Whole families embraced his rule in community refuges, which he established based on the Rule of Saint Benedict.
His relationship with the kings of his time was not always happy one. In 652, he wrote,what was apparently a second letter, to King Recceswinth asking for the release of political prisoners held from the reign of King Chintila, some of whom had languished in prison until the reign of King Erwig. (I can’t resist posting this image I found of King Chintila, at least it is helpful to establish the times in your minds.)
He was later present at the Eighth Council of Toledo in 653, in place of Bishop Riccimer of Dumio. It was at this Council that Fructuosus raised the issue of political prisoners once again. After the death of Bishop Riccimer, Fructuosus succeeded him in the See of Dumio in 654. In 656, he undertook to plan for a voyage to the Levant. However, according to the new laws enacted by King Chindasvinth, it was illegal to leave the kingdom without royal permission. One of the few disciples privy to his plans had given him up to authorities and Fructuosus was subsequently arrested and imprisoned but soon released.
Bishop Fructuosus attended the Tenth Council of Toledo in December 656. The last will and testament of the recently deceased bishop Riccimer, was disputed by those who saw his freeing of slaves and distribution of church rents to the poor was responsible for the subsequent impoverishment of that see. The Council agreed that, by not providing compensation, Bishop Riccimer had obviated his duty and the acts of his will were rendered invalid. They gave the job of correcting the problem to Fructuosus and commanded him to take moderation in the case of the slaves. At the same Council, Archbishop Potamius of Braga was remanded to a monastery for licentiousness and his archdiocese was given to St Fructuosus on 1 December 656, thus he became an Archbishop.
Fructuosus dressed so poorly as to be mistaken for a slave and he even received a beating from a peasant, from which he was only saved by a miracle (according to the monastic chroniclers). His Vita is one of the chief sources for writing the history of his age.
His innocence and virtue were no security from the shafts of envy but he overcame injuries by meekness and patience and died, laid on ashes before the altar, as he desired, on the 16th of April, 665. His relics, which for a time were in the Cathedral of Braga, were later transferred to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in the year 1102. They were returned to their original location in 1966. Fructuosus is depicted with a stag, which was devoted to him, because he had been saved it from hunters. Below is the story from “The Little Bollandists” by Monsignor Paul Guérin, 1882:
One day he was going through a forest, when a roe, pursued by hunters, took refuge under his cloak. The Saint took the animal under his protection and brought it to the monastery, the grateful beast never left it’s liberator, it followed him about all day, slept at his feet at night and never ceased to cry when he was absent. More than once, he had it taken back to the forest but it always found the track of its deliverer’s footprints. At last it was one day killed by a young man who disliked monks. Fructuosus was absent for a few days and, on his return, he was surprised not to see his roe run to meet him and when he heard that it was dead, he was overcome with grief, his knees trembled and he prostrated himself on the floor of the church. It is not related whether this was to ask God to punish the cruel man but the latter soon fell ill and sent for the Father to come to his assistance. Fructuosus took the revenge of a noble Visigoth and Christian. He cured the murderer of his roe and restored him to health both of soul and body. It is related of him that, wishing to escape the homage of the people, he retired into the depth of the forest and that the jays which he had brought up in the Monastery, sought him out and betrayed the place of his retreat by the joyous chattering with which they greeted him. Fructuosus is painted with a roe and jays as his emblems.