Saint of the Day – 15 January – Saint Maurus OSB (c 512-584) Benedictine Abbot and Deacon, miracle-worker. Maurus was the first disciple of Saint Benedict of Nursia (512–584). He is mentioned in Saint Gregory the Great’s biography of the latter as the first oblate, offered to the Monastery by his noble Roman parents as a young boy, to be brought up in the monastic life. Born in c 512 in Rome, Italy and died on 15 January 584 of natural causes. Patronages – Benedictine Novices and Oblates (co-patron with St Placidus), disabled/cripples, invoked against rheumatism, epilepsy, gout, hoarseness, cold, charcoal burners, cobblers, coppersmiths, shoemakers, porters, tinkers, tailors, lantern and candle makers, of the Azores, Badajoz, Spain, Casoria, Italy, Saint-Bonnet-de-Vieille-Vigne, France.
Four stories involving Maurus recounted by St Gregory formed a pattern for the ideal formation of a Benedictine Monk. The most famous of these involved Saint Maurus’s rescue of Saint Placidus, a younger boy offered to Saint Benedict at the same time as Saint Maurus. The incident has been reproduced in many medieval and Renaissance paintings.
“Saint Maurus—one of the greatest masters of the Cenobitical Life and the most illustrious of the Disciples of St Benedict, the Patriarch of the Monks of the West—shares with the First Hermit, St Paul, the honours of this fifteenth day of January.” (From the Benedictine Liturgy). The Benedictines today, liturgically honour the first companions of Saint Benedict, Saint Maurus and Saint Placidus. They are the Patron saints of Benedictine Novices and Oblates.
St Maurus, Abbot and Deacon, son of Equitius, a nobleman of Rome, was born about the year 510 and died in 584. When he was about twelve years old, his father placed him under the care of St Benedict at Subiaco, to be educated in piety and learning. When he had grown up, St Benedict chose him as his co-adjutor in the government of the Monastery. He was a model of perfection to all his brethren but especially in the virtue of obedience.
St Placidus, one of his fellow disciples, the son of the Senator Tertullus, going one day to draw water, fell into the lake and was at once carried away by the current. St Benedict saw this in spirit in his cell and bade Maurus run and draw him out. Having asked and received the holy Father’s blessing, Maurus hastened down to the lake, walked upon the waters, thinking he was on dry land and dragged Placid out by the hair, without sinking in the least himself. He attributed the miracle to the command and prayers of St Benedict but the holy Abbot, to the obedience of the disciple.
St Maurus was sent to France in 543 to propagate the order of St Benedict in that country. He founded the famous Abbey of Glanfeuil, over which he ruled as Abbot for thirty-eight years. In 581 he resigned the Abbacy, built for himself a small cell near the Church of St Martin, so that, in solitude and prayer, he might prepare himself for his passage into eternity. After two years he fell sick of a fever, he received the Sacraments of the Church, lying on sackcloth before the Altar of St Martin and in that posture expired on 15 January 584.
Maurus was originally buried in the Abbey Church at Glanfeuil. When, in 868, Odo and the monks of Glanfeuil were obliged to flee to Paris in the face of Vikings marauding along the Loire, the remains of St Maurus were translated to the Abbey of Saint-Pierre-des-Fossés, later renamed Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.
In 1750 the relics were relocated to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where they remained until dispersed by a Parisian mob during the French Revolution. Saint Maurus is still venerated by Benedictine congregations today, many Monks adopting his name and dedicating Monasteries to his patronage.
The cult of Saint Maurus slowly spread to Monasteries throughout France and by the 11th century had been adopted by Monte Cassino in Italy, along with a revived cult of Saint Placidus. By the late Middle Ages, the cult of Saint Maurus, often associated with that of Saint Placidus, had spread to all Benedictine Monasteries. Saint Maurus is venerated even as far as in India, where he is highly honoured in certain areas of the southern state of Kerala.
St Maurus was favoured by God with the gift of miracles. To show in what high degree the Saint possessed the gift of miracles, it will be sufficient to cite a few examples of how he miraculously cured the sick and restored to health those who were stricken with a grievous affliction. It has already been stated, according to the testimony of St Pope Gregory the Great, in the Second Book of his Dialogues, how when a youth, St Maurus rescued St Placidus from drowning.
A few more examples of miracles wrought by the Saint, as related by the Monk St Faustus (Bollandists, Vol. 2), who accompanied St Maurus to France and later wrote his life, will be given here. They were invariably wrought by means of the Sign of the Cross and the relic of the true Cross, which he had taken along to France.
When St Maurus, at that time Prior of the Abbey of Monte Cassino, was returning with the brethren from gathering the harvest in the fields, he met a boy who was mute and crippled, accompanied by his parents. When the father and mother of the boy cast themselves at the feet of the Saint and implored him to cure their child of his maladies, St Maurus, having for some time given himself to prayer, imposed upon the head of the boy his levitical stole, for he was a Deacon and made the sign of the Cross over him, saying to him: “In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity and supported by the merits of the-most holy Father Benedict, I bid you to rise, stand upon your feet and be cured.” And forthwith the boy arose, walked about and with a loud voice praised and glorified God.
A certain Vicar, Ardenard, had been sent by Innocent, the Bishop of Mans, to Monte Cassino, in order to petition St Benedict to send some Monks to France. Arriving at a place called Vercella, the Vicar fell down headlong from a high stairway in the place where he was lodging. His body was so crushed by the fall that his life was despaired of. His right shoulder, arm and hand had so swelled with inflammation, that amputation of the arm was deemed necessary. Recourse was then had to their companion, St Maurus, who was engaged in prayer in the oratory. Moved by the earnest supplications of his brethren and the misery of the sick man, the Saint cast himself prostrate at the foot of the Altar, pouring forth his soul in fervent prayer. Having finished praying, he took from the Altar the case of relics which had been sent him by his master, St Benedict and went to the bedside of the sick man. Having exposed the relic of the Cross, he made the Sign of the Cross over every part of the arm from the shoulder to the fingers, saying:
“O God, the Creator of all things,
You ordained that Your only Son
should take flesh of the Virgin Mary
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
for the restoration of your people
and You deigned to heal the wounds
and infirmities of our souls,
by the redemption accomplished
upon the sacred and glorious wood
of the life-giving Cross,
do You also vouchsafe
through this powerful Sign,
to restore health to Your servant.”
His prayer being ended, all the poisoned blood, by which the Vicar’s arm had beer inflamed, began to flow off from three different places in his arm and his arm was cured.
While continuing their journey and reaching the Alps, one of the servants, Sergius, riding on horseback, fell from his horse and struck his leg against a huge rock and so crushed it, that it was but one bruised mass. Whereupon St Maurus went up to the unfortunate man, seized his crushed leg with his left hand and with his right made the sign of the Cross over it, saying: “In the name of almighty God, arise and be cured” and immediately, to the joy of all, his crushed leg became whole and sound.
When St Maurus and his little band came to the Church of the Holy Martyrs Sts Maurice and his companions, they entered it to pray. At the entrance of the Church sat a certain man who was born blind, begging alms from those who entered and left the holy building. He had learned that Maurus, the disciple of the holy man Benedict, had arrived, the fame of his sanctity having already preceded him. When Maurus and his companions had finished their prayers and left the Church, they found the blind man lying prostrate on the ground, begging and imploring the Saint to obtain for him by his prayers the light of his eyes. Maurus commanded him to rise and pressing the fingers of his right hand upon his eyes, he imprinted on them the sign of our redemption. Thereupon, the blind man instantly obtained his eyesight.
Blessing of St Maurus
Since St Maurus miraculously freed many persons from their bodily afflictions through the Sign of the Cross and the relic of the true Cross of Christ, in many Monasteries of the Order of St Benedict from time immemorial, after the example of this miracle-worker, the custom of blessing the sick with the relic of the true Cross, has prevailed, in order to restore their health. But until recent years, there was no uniform and approved formula of blessing of the Church. There existed a number of old and new formulas, which were essentially the same but differed from each other in many details. Some formulas were exceedingly lengthy. In the face of these facts, Dom Maurus Wolter OSB, President of the Beuronese Congregation, petitioned Rome for an approved and authentic formula. A carefully prepared and much abbreviated formula was therefore presented to the Sacred Congregation of Rites for its approval.
The formula and prayer of St Maurus, was approved by the Sacred Congregation for all Priests and Deacons, secular as well as regular clerics, to impart the blessing, provided the formula approved by the Sacred Congregation is used.
In art, St Maurus is depicted as a young man in the garb of a monk, usually holding an Abbot’s cross or sometimes with a spade (an allusion to the monastery of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, literally “Saint Maurus of the Ditches”). Another of Saint Maurus’ attributes, is a crutch, in reference to his patronage of cripples. He was invoked especially against fever, and also against rheumatism, epilepsy and gout. He is also sometimes depicted with a scale, a reference to the implement used to measure a Monk’s daily ration of bread, given to him by Benedict when he left Monte Cassino, for France. The Monks of Fossés near Paris (whence the community of Glanfeuil had fled from the Vikings in 868) exhibited this implement throughout the Middle Ages.