Saint of the Day – 11 May – Saint Mayeul of Cluny (c 906–994) Priest, Abbot, the 4th Abbot of Cluny, Reformer., miracle-worker. Born in c 906 in Avignon, France and died in 994 at Souvigny, France en route to Paris, of natural causes. He is also known as Majolus, Maieul, Mayeul, Mayeule.
Mayeul was revered in his own time as a holy man. He spent much time in prayer and solitude, he rebuked sinners, he disliked public praise and high honours but he would do much good in secret, away from the eyes of the public. Whenever he went on a journey, he would have an open book in his hand, which could be either a spiritual or philosophical work, which he would read as he rode. He had great knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures and other subjects but would never offer his knowledge unsolicited. He would only speak when asked his opinion. He always spoke very briefly. He drank a little wine. He was said to be a very gentle and kind person, although strict and unwavering when required.
Mayeul was very active in reforming individual communities of Monks and Canons; first, as a personal commission, requested and authorised by the Emperor or other nobility. Later, he found it more effective to affiliate some of the foundations to the motherhouse at Cluny to lessen the likelihood of later relapse. He travelled widely and was highly regarded as a person of influence, both in Rome and at the Imperial Court. He is buried at the Priory of Souvigny, along with St Odilo, the 5th bbot of Cluny and commemorated individually on 11 May and also on 29 April with four other early Abbots of Cluny.
Mayeul’s father, named “Fulcher,” was from a wealthy provincial family of Avignon. His mother was named Raimodis. They had two sons. Mayeul and Cynricus. It is not known for sure which was the older but traditionally, the younger sons of noble families were given to the Church and the elder sons were made the heirs to the father’s estate, hence because Mayeul became a Monk, it is sometimes assumed he is the younger. Around 916, Mayeul fled his family’s estates near Rietz to stay with relatives at Mâcon due to the feudal wars. Both his parents died during his absence, while he was still very young.
Mayeul studied the liberal arts at Lyon and became Canon and later Archdeacon of Mâcon; his Ordination to the Priesthood was in Mâcon. While there, he gave free lessons to a large body of clerks. He built a small Oratory on the opposite side of the river from the Town, where he would retire for prayer. In personal habits he was always kind, never telling lies, detraction or flattery and he was severe against sinners, if it was necessary to call them to repent. He gained a reputation among the local people as a holy person and so, when Besançon needed a new Bishop, many people, called on him to become their Bishop but he refused.
There was a famine at the time and Mayeul prayed for help for those begging for food. One day as he prayed, seven gold coins appeared in front of him. He was afraid that this was a trick of the devil or that the money was lost and he wouldn’t touch it. But when he discovered the money was real and no-one claimed it, he then used it to buy food for the starving peoples.
He decided then to enter Cluny Abbey, which he had visited previously. Aymard of Cluny was Abbot at the time. Aymard appointed Mayeul “armarius” (book-keeper and master of ceremonies). He was later made librarian. He had read the poems of Virgil and he considered that Monks should not read these works but that the Sacred Scriptures alone was enough for them. He was very strict in the discipline he applied to new monks.
He was sent with a fellow monk from Cluny to Rome, on one occasion and on the return journey his companion became sick. Mayeul waited by the suffering Monk for three days with much anxiety and on the third night, he dreamed that he saw a white-haired old man who said ‘Why art thou cast down in idle grief? Hast thou forgotten what my brother James orders for the sick?’ He awoke and realised, that the dream was referring to the Sacrament of Extreme Unction mentioned in the letter of James (5:14-15). He then anointed his brother-monk with the holy oil. The sick Monk then started to recover from his illness. This miracle was then told at Cluny and the Monks held Mayeul in veneration.
Around 948, Mayeul became co-adjutor to Abbot Aymard. Aymard became blind and he resigned his Abbacy, recommending that the Monks choose to elect a new Abbot and suggested they choose Mayeul but he refused. However, Mayeul again had a dream in which St Benedict appeared to him and told him to accept the responsibility of the office and that the Sacred book would be his guide. The next day, Mayeul addressed the Monks and said, “Now in Him who is able to smooth over rough places, to raise up heavy burdens and to overthrow the adversary, I place my hope and submit myself to your unchanged command.” Mayeul became Abbot about the year 954.
The construction of Cluny II, c 955–981, begun after the destructive Hungarian raids of 953,. The replacement Abbey Church of Cluny II was consecrated in 981. The relics of Peter and Paul were taken from Rome to Cluny during Mayeul’s Abbacy. Under him, a network of Monasteries dependent on Cluny’s leadership, began to develop and would continue under his successors Odilo and Hugh.
Mayeul was graced by God with miracles during his lifetime and after his death. He cured the sick, restored sight to the blind, healed those bitten by serpents, dogs or wolves, he also miraculously rescued people from death by drowning or fire. Among the stories of miracles attributed to him, the following are here related:
Once when Mayeul was returning from Aquitaine, he decided to visit a Monastery along the way and sent a messenger ahead of him to say he was on his way. The Monks of this Monastery were happy that he was coming but the purveyor felt concerned because they had run out of fish. However, he asked the Monks to go down to the river and call on God by the name of Mayeul and when they did, they caught an enormously large salmon.
The water that Mayeul used to wash his hands was said to have miraculous powers. Once in Vallavaense a blind beggar caught hold of Mayeul’s bridle as he was leaving the Town and begged him to bless water in a jar he had brought. Mayeul was moved by this show of faith and so he blessed the water. The beggar then washed his eyes with the water and received his sight.
After his death several pilgrims, when returning from his tomb, reached the Loire river and they could not cross it because the boat was on the other side. Tthe boatman refused to come over for them. They called on Mayeul to intercede for them and the boat crossed over by itself to them and took them, without being rowed, to the other side.
A woman who brought her dead child to Mayeul’s tomb in Souvigny where she placed the child’s body in front of the altar, where it remained the whole night. At nine o’clock in the morning, the eyes of the boy opened and the boy called for his mother.
Mayeul lived to the old age of 84. Two years before he died, he gave up the Abbacy and made Odilo his co-adjutor, just as Aymard had done with him about 50 earlier. He retired to one of the smaller Cluniac houses where he devoted time to serving the brothers there by instruction, correction and inspiration. He continued to work even into his old age and he died on his way to reform Saint-Denis in Paris. He did not get far and stopped at Souvigny Priory, where he died and was buried. After he died, the Monks at Cluny wanted to bring him to Cluny but the Monks at Sovigny protested and insisted that he remain there. The tomb of St Majolus became the focus of pilgrimages and miracles.