Saint of the Day – 6 February – Saint Amand of Maastricht (c 584-c 679) Bishop of Tongeren-Maastricht and one of the great Missionaries of Flanders (Belgium), Monk, Abbot, Papal Missionary Bishop and Advisor, miracle-worker, Founder of numerous Monasteries which became known for their hospitality to pilgrims. Born c 584 at Poitou, France and died in c 679 in the Monastery at Elnone-en-Pevele (modern Saint-Amand-les-Eaux), France. Patronages – against diseases of cattle, against fever, against paralysis, against rheumatism, against seizures against skin diseases, against vision problems, Boy Scouts, bar staff, barkeepers, bartenders, brewers, grocers, hotel keepers, innkeepers, merchants, pharmacists, druggists, vinegar makers, vine growers, vintners, wine merchants, 4 cities. Also known as the Apostle of Belgium, Apostle of Flanders, Amand of Elnone, Amand of France, Amandus, Amantius, Amatius.
The chief source of details of his life is the Vita Sancti Amandi, an eighth-century text attributed to Beaudemond. The vita was expanded by Philippe, Abbot of Aumône. According to this biography, Amand was born in Lower Poitou. He was of noble birth but at the age of twenty, he became a monk, against the wishes of his family. His father threatened to disinherit him if he did not return home but our Saint chose rather to ensure his riches in the heavenly kingdom. From there Amandus went to Bourges and became a pupil of Bishop Austregisilus. There he lived in solitude in a cell for fifteen years, living on no more than bread and water.
Amand’s fervent disciple, St Humbert of Maroilles (died c 682), was of a noble family and trained as a Monk in Laon. However, upon the death of his parents, he returned to his estates to settle some inheritance issues and found fine food, servants and various conveniences, sufficiently distracting, that he gave up any thought of the monastic life, until one day Amand took him on a pilgrimage to Rome. Humbert became his disciple and companion.
After the pilgrimage to Rome, Amand was made a Missionary Bishop in France in 628, without a fixed Diocese. At the request of Clotaire II, he evangelised the pagan inhabitants of Ghent, later extending his field of operations to all of Flanders. Initially, he had little success, suffering persecution and undergoing great hardships. However, after performing a miracle (bringing back to life a hanged criminal), the attitude of the people changed and he made many converts. He founded a Monastery at Elnon where he served as Abbot for four years. He returned to France in 630.
Amand was a close friend of St Adalbard of Ostrevent (died c 652), whom he advised on the founding Marchiennes Abbey. Amand angered Dagobert I by attempting to have the King amend his life. In spite of the intervention of Saint Acarius, Amand was expelled from the kingdom and went to Gascony.
Later Dagobert asked him to return and tutor the heir to the throne. Amand however declined. In 633, Amand founded two Monasteries in Ghent; one at Blandinberg and the other named for St Bavo, who gave his estate for its foundation. His next missionary task was among the Slavic people of the Danube valley in present-day Slovakia but this was unsuccessful. Amand went to Rome and reported to the Pope. While returning to France, Amand calmed a storm at sea. In 639, he built an Abbey near Tournay.
From 647 till 650, Amand briefly served as Bishop of Maastricht. The Pope gave him some advice on how to deal with disobedient clerics and warned him about the Monothelite heresy, at that time prevalent in the East. Amand was commissioned by the Pope to organise Church Councils, in Neustria and Austrasia, in order to pass on the various decrees from Rome. The Bishops asked Amand to report and transmit the proceedings of the Church Councils to the Pope. He resigned the See of Maastricht to St Remaclus, to resume his missionary work.
Around this time, Amand established contact with the family of Pepin of Landen and helped St Gertrude of Nivelles OSB (died 659) and her mother, St Itta (died 652), establish the famous Monastery of Nivelles. Amand was now 70 years old but at this time, the inhabitants of the Basque country asked him to return to their country to evangelise, although 30 years earlier he had preached there in vain. Returning home, he founded several more Monasteries in present-day Belgium, with the help of King Dagobert.
Amand died in Elnone Abbey (later Saint-Amand Abbey, in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, near Tournai) at the age of ninety. The Vita of St Aldegonde recounts, that on the day of his death, St Aldegonde was shown a vision of the great Missionary Saint, ascending to heaven. This account did much to further the cult of Amand.
St Amand was known for his hospitality and is, therefore, the Patron Saint of all who produce beer, brewers, innkeepers and bartenders. He is also the Patron of vine growers, vintners and merchants. St Amand is greatly venerated in Belgium, in particular.