Saint of the Day – 14 November – Saint Siard OPraem (Died 1230) Abbot Siard of Friesland in the Netherlands, was a holy Abbot of the Norbertine Abbey in Mariëngaard by Hallum in Friesland. He was a powerful and hardworking Administrator, abiding strictly by the Rule of the Order, Apostle of the poor and needy, a holy Abbot of deep piety and prayer, on occasion he was seen in ecstasy, peacemaker. Patronage – against blindness, bodily ailments.
He was born to a noble Frisian family in the shadow of the Abbey of Mariëngaard and there received the white habit at the hands of St Frederick (c 780-838). During his first twenty years in the Abbey, Siard practised great penances and mortification and proved a model of edification for the brethren, to such an extent that Abbot John appointed Siard his successor on his death-bed.
As Abbot his life was particularly marked by its austerity and benevolence.Nothing in his daily life distinguished him from his confreres. He wore the same habit, ate at the same table and slept in the same dormitory. On account of his exceptional humility, he resolutely refused everything that was not strictly necessary. He was a good administrator who governed his Monastery well, both in spiritual and material matters. He laboured zealously with his Monks, particularly in the fields harvesting wheat. He would lead the confreres in the singing of Psalms during harvest time. He was extremely open to those who sought his advice and ensured that the Abbey became known as a place of refuge throughout the region.
As a model of perfection, Siard had also given Blessed Dodo of Haskerland his Norbertine education. He showed a true conciliatory spirit, settling disputes quickly and with the utmost gentleness and understanding. Furthermore, the Saint extended the lands of the Abbey and guided the constructios of various additions to the buildings. The apostolic spirit of the Order thrived at Mariëngaarde under his leadership. Whenever Siard went on a journey, he took along a large basket full of bread and other foods that he could distribute among the poor. Because of this he is usually depicted with a basket at his feet.
Once on a journey, the holy Abbot came across a noisy celebration of music and dance. He stopped and turned to his brothers saying, “Just imagine what songs of joy the angel choirs must sing when they celebrate the conversion of a single sinner.” He urged three things upon the confreres who had to leave the Monastery on a journey – a joyous departure, a peaceful sojourn and a happy return. Known also for his miraculous cures of the sick and ailing, the Monastery began to attract many in search of the alleviation of their physical illnesses, after Siard cured a man of blindness.
Siard had a special devotion to Martha and Mary. He looked to Martha, as an example for his care of the confreres and to Mary, as a reminder of the necessity of listening to Christ, in prayer and meditation. On occasion, he would fall into ecstasy during prayer and hear the heavenly music of the angels.
Naturally the austhere life which Siard had implemented, was not popular with all of the Canons and,, in 1290, one of their number attempted to murder the Abbot. His loud cries brought the aid of the confreres and he escaped with only minor injuries.
He had been Abbot for thirty six years when he died on 14 November 1230. Numerous faithful were granted special favours by God, at his grave. After the destruction of Mariëngaarde by the Calvinists in 1578, his earthly remains were rescued by a Frieslanden nobleman, Siard of Helsema, who brought them to Hildesheim. In 1608 his Relics were divided and placed in two separate Reliquaries. In 1617, one of these was brought to the Abbey of St Feuillin du Roeulz. After the suppression of this Abbey during the French Revolution, the Relics were taken to the Church at Strépy. In 1938 Prelate Bauwens brought them to the Norbertine Abbey of Leffe. The other Reliquary was brought to Tongerlo in 1617, where ever since the people have held St Siard in great honour and celebrated his Feast each year, with great solemnity. A part of the Relic of Siard’s head found a home in the Generalate House in Rome, until 2000 when it was transferred to the Abbey of Windberg.
The cult of St Siard was confirmed by Pope Benedict XIII on 22 January and 8 March in 1728.
O God, Who made Thy Saints to obey the Gospel as an example for many, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may imitate the cheerful goodness and devout piety of the blessed Abbot Siard. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, One God forever and ever. Amen.