Saint of the Day – 10 September – Blessed Oglerio O.Cist (c 1136-1214) Cistercian Monk, Abbot, Mediator and peace-maker, Reformer, Penitent, Writer – born in c 1136 in Trento, Trino Vercellese, Italy and died in 1214 of natural causes. He is also known as Ogerius, Ogler, Oglerius. Blessed Oglerio was devoted to Mary and in his writings praised her prerogatives, especially the Immaculate Conception. Not only a man of learning but of humility as well, he was found by Pope Innocent III to be an “instrument of peace” in settling quarrels among warring factions in Italy.
It can be said that Trino Vercellese is a land of the blessed. In addition to Blessed Magdalene Panattieri and Blessed Arcangela Girlani, Blessed Oglerio, Abbot of St Maria di Lucedio is also the pride of the people of Trento. This was an important Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1123 as a subsidiary of the Monastery of La Fertè, in a vast wooded plain not far from Trino. In those days, the abbeys were indeed centres of spirituality but they also had the important economic role of managing many lands recovered from the state of abandonment.
Oglerio was born around the year 1136, the son of a wealthy family. Even today in the city, his birthplace is traditionally indicated which, despite the inevitable alterations, retains three coats of arms from the 8th century on the facade. There is also a fresco depicting the three local blessed.
In 1248 the young Oglerio witnessed the solemn passage of St Bernard of Clairvaux who accompanied, together with fourteen cardinals, Blessed Pope Eugenio III (also a Cistercian) on the journey from Asti to Vercelli, for the Consecration of the Basilica of St Mary Major. The great Doctor of the Church, with his exceptional charisma, broke into the heart of Oglerio who, probably already a student at Lucedio, wore the white Cistercian habit three years later. According to the Benedictine Rule, he alternated study with work, he took his vows in 1153 and in 1161 he was Ordained a Priest. He killed his own body with penance and fasting but he was meek with others, revealing that character that would distinguish him throughout his life.
In 1174, when Bernard of Clairvaux was Canonised, Lucedio was at its peak. About ten years later Peter II was elected Abbot and Oglerio, his right hand, was often his companion in the many missions he undertook in the ecclesiastical and civil sphere. On behalf of Pope Celestino III they settled the disputes between the Bishop of Tortona and the Templars. From the successor Pope Innocent III, they had the task of reconciling Parma and Piacenza (1200), reforming the important Monastery of Bobbio and, with the Bishop of Vercelli, the congregation of the Umiliati of that city, to smooth out the discords between the Monks and Canons of St Ambrogio of Milan (1202) and between the Bishop of Genoa and the Chapter of his Cathedral (1203).
In 1202 they preached the IV Crusade in Trino, one of the captains was Bonifacio del Monferrato. The Crusade failed in its intent, also because the Venetians, despite the dissent of the Pope, exploited it for their own political gain. Boniface, however, was awarded the title of King of Thessaly and the Abbot Peter II was elected Bishop of Ivrea and later Patriarch of Antioch. Oglerio became the eleventh Abbot of Lucedio who, in that year (1205), had fifty Monks.
The Blessed always had a great love for his country and several times he acted as a “peacemaker” in the long-standing conflicts that arose between the Bishop and the Municipality of Vercelli. In 1210, Trino acquired a certain autonomy and the Emperor Otto IV granted the Monastery, possessions and privileges, that benefited the surrounding territory – great was the charity of the Monks who drew from the Abbey’s granaries to help the needy in the many periods of need.
Oglerio also had many diplomatic assignments, on behalf of the Order of Cîteaux, the Apostolic See and the local dignataries – on behalf of the Marquis Guglielmo il Buono, he went on a mission to the Emperor Conrad and the King of France Louis VII. In 1212 Pope Innocent III appointed him Arbitrator between the Canons of Casale and those of Paciliano and the following year he had the task of re-establishing the rights of the Cistercians at the Monastery of Chortaiton, near Thessalonica, devastated by the Saracens. The Bishop of Novara Gerardo had him reform a female Convent and settle some disputes between Lucedio and the municipality of Vercelli.
However, Oglerio was, above all, an excellent spiritual father, in the years in which the Church opposed the heresy of the Albigensians. Fortunately, the “Tractatus in laudibus Sanctae Dei Genitrix” and an “Expositio super Evangelium in Coena Domini” have come down to us of his writings, also precious from a literary point of view. The first, addressed in particular to consecrated women, narrates the glories of Mary, through the passages of the Gospel and defends her immunity from original sin from conception (what will be the dogma of the Immaculate Conception). The second contains thirteen homilies on the Eucharist, “bread of the Spirit”, dealing with chapters XIII – XV of the Gospel of John. Oglerio indicates Jesus as the Lamb sacrificed for the salvation of men and to his Monks he says the Eucharist is “the way, whereby you must go through, the truth you must come to, the life you must remain in” (sermon VII). Christ prevails over the devil for the virtues of “humility, patience and kindness” (sermon IX). He who “loved you without measure, without measure you must love Him” (Sermon I). Mary is “the uncorrupted virgin, the untempered virgin, the virgin before childbirth and after childbirth” (sermon III). His works, for a long time, were believed to be of St Bernard but, in 1661, Cardinal Giovanni Bona attributed them correctly. From them all the sweetness for his Monks shines – many were those trained by him in the school of holiness. The 13th century parchment codex (141 sheets) containing his writings was kept in the Staffarda Abbey, passed to the Royal Library of Turin and definitively, in 1724, to the University Library.
The illustrious Abbot from Trentino one day passed through a Ligurian city, driving away some evil spirits. This episode characterised its iconography (in the likeness of St Bernard) and in the Cistercian martyrology he is remembered as “terror of unclean spirits” but also, to remember his tireless apostolate as a peacemaker.
Now old, he died on 10 September 1214, with a great reputation as a saint among the people and in his Order. The body was placed first in the cloister of the Monastery, then under the main altar. An altar was dedicated to him in 1577, becoming the local parish. On 2 September 1616 there was a sacking of the Monastery by the soldiers of the Duke of Savoy but fortunately, the relics were not dispersed. In 1786 the Cistercians, moving, took them to Castelnuovo Scrivia. The people of Trento got them back on 9 September 1792 and they were definitively placed in the town’s parish Church, St Bartolomeo of Trino, which also includes the magnificent Altarpiece of the Immaculate Conception (see below). Pope Blessed Pius IX, on 8 April 1875, confirmed the cult and Beatified Oglerio. The Abbey of Lucedio was secularised by Pope Pius VI in 1784, the beautiful bell tower and a few elements of the complex remain original from the times of Oglerio, subsequently remodelled several times.