Sunday 2 June 2013

Saint Aldegisus of Hannonia, June 2

On June 2 we commemorate one of the many Irish saints who left this country to bring the Gospel to other parts of western Europe. Saint Aldegisus, whose name is rendered in many ways including Adalgisus, Algisus and Adalgis, is said to have been one of the disciples of Saint Fursey. In his account below, Canon O'Hanlon has clearly accessed the medieval Acts of the saint and brings us a full account of his life and mission, introducing us to several other saints along the way.



...This holy man was born in Ireland, where he was brought up in the exercise of every virtue, having been dedicated to the Almighty, by his distinguished and pious parents. They offered vows and prayers, that their son might have intellect and will, to serve God with his whole mind. From his youth, they took good care to have him indoctrinated with learning, both mundane and sacred. Through the efficacious grace of Him, who rules all hearts, Adalgisus resolved on dedicating himself wholly to the Lord's service. According to the compiler of our saint's Acts, his brothers were Saints Goban and Etho. In the time of our saint flourished the illustrious man Fursey, said to have been a Bishop,in the Island of the Hibernian Scots, and who devoted himself to the most pious manner of living and to the work of Almighty God. He desired, also, to join with himself those companions, who would find the same delight in a religious life, and who had an evident vocation for it. Wherefore, Saints Algisus, and his venerable brothers, Etho and Goban, as also a holy man Eloquius, placed themselves under his guidance, when serving God with one heart and mind, full of wisdom and faith, the Holy Spirit guided them through a course of learning, while they neglected not to study the Sacred Scriptures. With earnestness of purpose and unchanging charity, those pious pupils pursued their meditations on the Divine Law, by day and by night.

When they had remained under his tutelage for a sufficient time, St. Fursey called them to himself, and exhorted them to prepare for the reception of Holy Orders. He advised them, through faith in the Holy Trinity and through the virtue of the Holy Ghost, to receive the Priesthood, and the blessings it conferred, in the name of Him, who rescued them from eternal death. They responded to his exhortations, by yielding obedience, and by receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, when they were ordained by St. Fursey. This ordinance was duly conferred, according to the ritual, and they returned to their friends, giving thanks to God. The sixth hour of the night following, which was that of the Sabbath, and while reclining on their beds, as a reward for their pious recollection and vigil, all of those Priests deserved to hear these words, as if addressed to them by the Lord: "Come to me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you at my heavenly table in my kingdom." This gave them great consolation, and on the following day, which was Sunday, Saints Algisus, with his brothers-german Goban and Etho, as also Eloquius and many others, went to their holy superior, St. Fursey. They related what had occurred in the vision, and they sought his permission to visit the tombs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, with those of other saints, so that there they might offer vows and prayers. St. Fursey hearing their narrative gave thanks to God; but, wishing to accompany them, he answered St. Algisus and his companions, with a cheerful countenance: "Certainly, I shall not give you permission to go, unless I am with you."

Then, having called his brothers St. Ultan and St. Foillan to him, St. Fursey said: "My dear brothers, do you wish to seek Christ with me?" They replied: "Our father and our superior, wherever you go, we shall follow you." In like manner, the holy Confessor Algisus or Adalgisus called his brothers, Goban, and Etho, with Eloquius, and another godson, named Corbican, as also his servant, named Rodalgus. He then spoke to them: "Dearly beloved, let us go and follow Christ, and offer ourselves to him as a holocaust." They replied to him: "Be it as you have spoken, O holy man, who desireth not only to profit yourself, but to have others, especially those so closely related by family ties, and through the exercise of pious works, as your companions." Wherefore, asking the blessing and absolution of St. Fursey, and commending themselves to the Lord, having obtained such favours, they returned thanks. St. Fursey, in turn, asked their blessing, which he received ; then, in the name and with the peace of God, he went with them to the sea-shore. They embarked on board a ship, while the waves being calm, they sailed to a more distant country. Where they landed is not stated, save that it was on some part of the French shore. However, they directed their course to Corbei, where there was a church, dedicated to the honour of the Holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, in that district about Amiens, and in which diocese it was situated. There, the pilgrims were received in a hospitable manner, when they had entered that monastery. Prostrating themselves before the altar of the most blessed Peter, these devout souls poured forth their prayer: "O Lord God, omnipotent King, who art, who hath been, and who art to be, who hath caused us to pass over the waves of a tranquil sea, and who hath brought us safely hither, we humbly request thee, O most bountiful Creator, to show us that place destined for each one of us, from the beginning of the world. Amen." Having poured forth this prayer in sighs and in tears, they arose. Embracing each other, they issued from that monastery, and in the cause of Christ, they separated for different quarters; but, while absenting themselves thus in body, the bond of Faith and of Charity united them in soul. Wherefore, to different places of the Gaulish kingdom they went, preaching the Lord's Gospel everywhere, until each arrived at his respective destination. Then, severally addicting themselves to prayers, vigils, and pious exercises, they spent the rest of their days, entirely devoted to God's service.

From the sixth to the seventh century, as ancient chronicles record, many are the holy missionaries of Ireland, who are known to have preached the Gospel in France. It has been groundlessly assumed, however, that Adalgisus, from his name, had been a native of Gaul, who became a disciple of an Irish missionary, greatly distinguished in Gaul, during the seventh century. Among St. Fursey's companions, at Lagny, is thought to have been included Adalgisus; but, this hardly appears to have been the case, if we follow the old writer of his Life. However, with those holy persons, already alluded to, the blessed Algisus, especially recommending himself to Divine protection, and regarding the destined object of his way, is said to have come to Laon. There, he was reverently welcomed, by King Clodoveus, who most generously acceded to a request earnestly preferred, that Algisus and his companions might obtain a suitable place, where they could serve our Lord, in a religious community life. Wherefore, with Corbican, Rodald, and Carebert, our saint went into a retired place, called Cellula, in the wood of Therascia, or Thierache, in Picardy. This was near Mount-Saint Julian, on the River Oysia, or Isara, now the Oyse, which falls into the Seine. There, St. Algisus fixed his staff in the ground, and immediately, a clear fountain of water sprung up; afterwards, it was known to have cured many persons from their infirmities. When this miracle was witnessed, by the holy man, he gave thanks to God, in these words: "O Lord, to thee be all glory." Two possessed persons came there, who requested Algisius in the name of Christ to deliver them from demoniac influence. For these, he earnestly prayed on his knees, with an humble and a devout soul, and rising up, he imposed hands on them. Then signing them with a sign of the cross, instantly the Liberator of all, through the merits of our saint, released the afflicted from their miserable bondage. This miracle, wrought before a number of persons, ended in their perfect restoration; nor was it more than the beginning of wonderful works, whereby the Almighty manifested his power, while the fame of Adelgisus increased each day.

The holy man found a suitable site for his habitation, near the miraculous fountain; and, according to the custom of that age, before he began to build, the founder spent the night in prayer and vigil. When the next day dawned, his servants went to the neighbouring Mount, where they vigorously cut down trees, to serve for their future habitation. Of this proceeding, Adelgisus was ignorant; but, an Angel of the Lord appeared, in the shape of a dove, and carrying in its bill a leafy branch from the wood. That dove then flew towards the place, destined for them by the Almighty, and full in their presence. The disciples, who had been at work, retired from the Mount, and they followed that dove towards the spot, where their holy superior was engaged at prayer. Here, they found the dove, standing beside him. The disciples were filled with a reverential awe. Then, Adalgisus rising from prayer took an axe in his hands, to commence his religious foundation. There, the holy Confessor built his church, and he laboured at the work, with his own hands, aided by those of his disciples. That place was afterwards called Cellula, or "the little monastery." When the house had been erected, the servant of God, Algisus, together with his pious subjects, Corbican, Rodald, and Carebert, settled down, to praise Almighty God, and to proclaim that precious miracle, which had inaugurated their religious enterprise, as also to thank unceasingly our Lord Jesus Christ, for his bountiful regard, towards these devoted followers.

When it was known in Ireland, that St. Adelgisus and his companions had taken up their residence at Cellula, certain Irish pilgrims set out with a St. Annanus; they passed over the sea, and guided in a providential manner, they came to that place. There, they were joyously received by St. Adelgisus, who exclaimed: "Oh! how good and pleasing it is for brothers to dwell together." Kissing each other, in monastic fashion, they give thanks to the Almighty, and then partaking of food, the travellers rested for that night. When the next day had dawned, the blessed Annanus and his companions with St. Adelgisus and his brethren began to labour earnestly in the service of God.

At this time, the holy Priest Adelgisus built a church, in honour of St. Peter and of the other Apostles, and of all the Saints. Having finished its erection, he called his godson Corbican, and he said: "My dearly beloved son, Corbican, it behoves you to go beyond the sea to my country, and to tell my father, mother, brothers and sisters, what you know regarding our affairs. Convey to them this message, that the portion of my inheritance which remains must be sold, and that the product shall be sent here through you. This, too, must you state, that never shall they see me more, unless they come hither; but, you must return to me, for I shall proceed to visit the tombs of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, at Rome." Then, replied Corbican: "My Father, if I should die on the way, what shall become of the treasure?" The holy Confessor Adelgisus said to him:"Lo! if death overtake thee, direct my father and mother to place the treasure by thy side, to cover thee with a waxed linen cloth, and to set thy body in two hides of animals, sewed up on every side; afterwards, they shall commit your body to the deep and to Divine guidance, while, I trust to the Lord's clemency, that you shall be brought hither, in a direct course." The renowned servant of God humbly obeyed the holy Father, and having received his blessing, Corbican set out on his journey. Through Almighty guidance, he came to the sea, which he crossed, and soon he brought the request of Adelgisus to his parents. These were greatly rejoiced, to have a pleasing and an authentic account of their son, and they readily complied with his request to effect the sale of his property. The proceeds were then given to Corbican, who was to transfer what had been obtained to his holy superior. But, when Corbican prepared for his return to Adelgisus, he began to waste in strength, and finding the chill of death approaching, he called the parents of his superior, and he told them what were the instructions of their son, in such a contingency. They promised to obey these directions. Soon, the happy death of Corbican took place, and while his body lay far from his holy superior, his soul was associated with the choirs of Heaven. Then were his remains covered with the waxed linen, the treasure was placed by his side, and the skins enclosed all; while the parents of Adelgisus, mindful of their son's orders, had the body brought to the sea, where it was committed to the waves, and to the disposition ot Divine Providence.

The old writer of our saint's Acts—after moralizing on these particulars ot the Legend—proceeds to state, that Angels guided the remains of Corbican over the sea, until in a direct course they floated onwards, to the place where Adalgisus lived at Cellula. While they were moving against the current of the River Isara, some shepherds on the bank, noticing the floating object and not knowing what it was, left their flocks, and endeavoured to draw it towards them. Yet, their efforts were in vain; and, while they followed the unknown object to one part of the river, soon it eluded their grasp, by gliding away to another place. This caused them to wonder greatly; but, soon Father Adelgisus, who had a revelation of what had taken place, came to the river's brink. Towards him, instantly, the body of Corbican floated. Filled with thanksgiving, the soul of St. Adelgisus expanded in prayer, and receiving the remains of his faithful disciple, they were soon brought to his oratory. The treasure was found beside his remains. There, Corbican was religiously interred, hymns and psalms were recited, and all glory was given to God, who had wrought such a stupendous miracle, to manifest the merits of his true servant.

Then, it is stated, that in fulfilment of a purpose he had formed and of a vow he had long before made, the amiable lover of Christ Adelgisus set out for Rome, asking Almighty protection on the way, that he might perform an act becoming his zeal and piety. When he arrived in the Eternal City, he went to the Basilica of St. Peter, and there he offered up prayers with great devotion, and tears coursed down his cheeks, when he knelt in the holy places. He desired most earnestly to receive sacred relics, so that he might bring them to that place, where he chose to serve the Almighty. In response to his wishes, he was favoured with a vision, in which the Blessed Apostle of our Lord Peter appeared, and brought him those sacred relics, which he had so eagerly requested. Having visited the various oratories of the saints in Rome, the holy Priest Adelgisus, commending himself to Almighty protection, prepared for his return. His heart was filled with gratitude for the favours he had received, and therefore he hastened homewards to his cell, where he devoted himself most assiduously to prayer and Divine meditation. There, too, he chastised the body and kept it in subjection, lest while he preached to others he should become a castaway. He spread the Gospel of Christ throughout the territory of Hannonia, between the Rivers Isara and Helpra.

Thence, he banished all traces of idolatry, towards the middle of the seventh century. He established there the Christian Faith firmly, and he brought many within the fold of Holy Church. When not engaged on the active duties of his mission, the saint spent his time, in prayer, meditation and pious exercises. Thus, was he duly prepared for that final summons from this life, the comforts and seductions of which he had so long abandoned. The year of his decease is not on record; but, it occurred, probably some time after the middle of the seventh century. The day assigned for his departure is the 2nd of June. He was interred in the territory of Laon, and his tomb was rendered famous, through the many miracles he wrought, even after death. His remains were at last transferred to and buried in the church of St. Michael, which Count Eilbert restored and endowed about the year 970, in the wood of Therascia, and at the instigation of St. Forannan, whose feast is celebrated on the 30th day of April. An arm of St. Adalgisilus was preserved in the monastery, called Maricolis, according to Raysius, although this matter has been called into question by Father Baert. According to Molanus, Miraeus, Bucelin, Menard, Dorgan, Saussay, and Wion, the feast of St. Adalgisus is set down, at the 2nd of June. Also, in the "Menologium Scoticum," of Thomas Dempster, his festival is on this day. At the same date, in that anonymous List, published by O'Sullevan Beare, we find Algisus. This name occurs, likewise, in Henry Fitzsimon's Catalogue, on the authority of Molanus. An error has been admitted by Camerarius, who has placed the festival of Adalgisus, at the 22nd of January. In the Martyrology of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Dublin, the feast of St. Algisus is on 2nd of June...

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