Tuesday 12 July 2016

Saint Menou of Quimper-Corentin, July 12

July 12 is the feast of Saint Menou, said to have been an Irishman. Modern scholarship is a great deal more sceptical of taking traditions of Irish origins for continental saints at face value. Gwenaël le Duc, for example, subjected the notion of Irish saints in Brittany to critical examination and concluded that so far from Brittany being 'a favourite destination' for Irish saints 'most of the Irish saints who came to the Continent had little interest in Britanny.' His paper 'Irish Saints in Brittany: Myth or Reality?' is well worth a read, details can be found here. Saint Menou is not one of the saints discussed specifically by le Duc and I was unable to access any further specialist opinion on the truth of his alleged Irish origins. For Canon O'Hanlon, the claim of Irish origin in a medieval Life of the saint is good enough for him. He brings us a full account of Saint Menou, drawn from the hagiographical sources, along with a charming sketch of Quimper-Corentin. I particularly enjoyed the account of Saint Menou's pilgrimage to Rome where the Pope can't wait to meet him and begs him to stay in the Eternal City! Canon O'Hanlon begins and ends with a pious homiletic on the subject of renouncing the world, something the Irish saints at home and abroad certainly did, although I would still like to see further supporting evidence for the claim that Saint Menou should be numbered among them:



WE often hear Christians say, they do not find the peace, and joy, and fruitfulness, and usefulness, they are led to expect from the promises of God conveyed in the Sacred Scriptures. If so, we may rest assured, the fault lies with themselves. It is only the true saint can fully comprehend, what the Almighty hath prepared for them that love him, and which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. The perfect detachment from created things is a sacrifice most pleasing and most perfect in the estimation of the Creator, and to it, the most faithful and favoured of his servants continually aspire.

The Acts of this venerable man whose name has been Latinized Menulfus, or Menulphus—and by the French called Menou—were formerly preserved in Manuscript, at the church of St. Autrille-du-Chateau, near Bourges. Theywere first published by le Pere Labbe. The Breviary of the church at Bourges, printed A.D. 1512, has his office of three Lessons included. Likewise, his office has been printed, at Paris, in 1686. It is now celebrated under a simple rite. The Acts of St. Menou, who probably flourished in the seventh century, and who became bishop of Quimper, in Bretagne, have been published by Lobineau. They have been published, likewise, by the Bollandists, at the 12th of July. There is a previous commentary, by Father John Baptist Soller, S.J., the editor. Then follow the proper Acts. The "Petits Bollandistes" have an account of this saint, and also at the same date.

It is agreed, by the various writers of his Acts, that Menou was a native of Ireland; but, regarding the particular place where he was born, or his parentage, we find no record. There, too, it seems his first years were spent; yet, for the sake of greater perfection, he was induced to leave his family and native country while still very young. At first, he went to Great Britain, and thence, he travelled to Armorica, until he came to Quimper, also known as Quimper-Corentin, the present capital of the Department of Finistere in France. It is situated on the declivity of a hill, at the confluence of the Odet and Steir, about thirty-two miles south-east from Brest. At that time, this city formed part of the country, belonging to the Ossimiens. It is now divided into an old and a new town, but the houses are poorly built. It is surrounded with a wall, and guarded by towers. Its present cathedral is a fine structure of the fifteenth century, and it is situated near the port. The bishop of Quimper is now a suffragan to the Archbishop of Tours. According to the Acts of our saint, about the same period when he arrived in Little Britain, Dagobert, King of the Franks, reigned, and had established peace throughout his dominions, while many holy persons flourished in the world, beautiful as the vernal flowers. This statement, however, is not reconcilable with the respective dates assigned for St. Corentin's epoch—supposed to have been the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century—and for that of King Dagobert, who flourished in the seventh century. We must infer, that the Legend of St. Menulph's Acts had been framed by some writer ignorant of chronology, and perhaps little careful to discriminate fictions from facts, in those accounts transmitted through popular traditions. At that period of St. Menulph's arrival at Quimper, St. Corentin is said to have ruled over it as bishop.  It is possible, he had been the second bearing that name, but we cannot find any distinct traces of the latter in the history of Quimper-Corentin.

That pious bishop of his acquaintance saw the youthful stranger, and asked about the country from which he came, as also the motives that induced him to travel. In the Breton language, Menou answered, that he was a native of Ireland, and that his sole desire was to serve God in the country to which he had come. The prelate found, that he had been well educated, and moved by his pious desire, the young man was admitted to the ranks of the clergy, and also ordained a priest. Having been invested with this sacred character, Menou was not alone satisfied with offering the Adorable Victim; but even,he became a living sacrifice to God, owing to his practice of corporal mortification. His great Faith and devotion rendered him an object of respect and affection among the people. Wherefore, when St. Corentin died, the united voices of the clergy and laity called St. Menou to succeed him. Notwithstanding the positive statement contained in the Legend of his Life, it is said, that the name of St. Menulfus or Menou is not to be found in the Lists of Bishops, belonging to Quimper-Corentin. The Bollandists do not deny, that our saint had been a bishop; but, whether he had been a regionary prelate, or had belonged to some See unknown, they think cannot be determined.

Having now become a pastor of souls, the saint was careful, not alone to instruct his people diligently in the truths of salvation, and to distribute the sacred bread of God's word, but likewise to edify them by his regular and exemplary life. His charity was occupied incessantly, in watching with solicitude over the spiritual concerns of his flock, and in healing the temporal ills to which they were subject. Hearing of his holiness and good works, a certain noble, that had been thrown into prison by the chief of that country, manifested a great desire to become converted through his preaching, and to receive his benediction. The zealous pastor, being informed regarding the the pious dispositions of the prisoner, sent his ring and a message, that he should not despair of God's bounty, and that he should soon have reasons for thanksgiving because of His infinite mercies. The ring was received with great pleasure by the prisoner. Touching his chains with it, these broke asunder, in the presence of all the keepers, so that the noble was set at liberty. At once, he went to visit St. Menou. Prostrate at his feet, the liberated man showed his lively sense of gratitude. He received also the Christian instruction necessary for his reception of Baptism. Afterwards, full of joy, he returned to live among his own people.

A vow had been made by St. Menou, to visit the tombs of the Apostles. With some of his priests in company, he accordingly parted for the city of Rome. When he had arrived there, the fame of his virtues could not long be concealed. A remarkable miracle was wrought by him, in favour of a paralytic, who asked an alms from him, and who in return received even a greater bounty, viz. : that of being healed from his infirmity. This was duly reported to the Pope, who much desired to see the saintly Prelate. The Sovereign Pontiff earnestly pressed our saint to remain longer in Rome. Nevertheless, the servant of God, having fully satisfied his devotion, resolved on returning to his own flock. Accompanied by his priests, St. Menou left Rome, and returned to France. He came to Mouilly, a small town in the Department of l'Allier, formerly known as that of Bourbonnais, and at present it is in the diocese of Moulins.

When he arrived there, the holy man forewarned his disciples, that death was approaching, and he even announced to them the very day and hour. They were overwhelmed with sorrow, to hear this sad news. They assembled around their beloved pastor and master, praying him to become their intercessor in Heaven, as he had been their model and protector in that school of perfection where he had trained them while on earth. Their pious bishop then exhorted them to persevere in virtuous pursuits for the rest of their days. Then receiving the Holy Viaticum, and reclining as if he were about to pass  into a calm slumber, Menulph gave forth his last breath in prayer. Being  free from contagion of sin during his life, so he was exempt from painful  sufferings at the hour of death. In his old Acts, it is stated, that he departed this life, on the fourth day of the July Ides, corresponding with the 12th day of this month. His great humility urged him to select an almost unknown spot in the cemetery of St. Germain, and his wishes in the matter were faithfully regarded. The village of Maliacum, where he had been interred, has since been called from him St. Menouil, in Bourbonnais.

A miracle wrought at his tomb caused a local magnate named Arcade to cause a church to be erected there, in honour of the holy bishop; while a nunnery of religious women was also established, in that place. The third Abbess, named Adalgise, caused St. Menou's body to be raised from the earth in the ninth century. That religious house is now destroyed, but the saint's relics are still preserved in the ancient church, which has since become parochial. Not only in the place, which now preserves his name, has the veneration of St. Menou been established, but throughout the whole diocese of Bourges. A reason assigned for his memory not being so well preserved in Bretagne is owing probably to the circumstance of his death occurring without that province. However, there are still places there, such as Pont-Menou, le Val-Meno, and Ker-Meno, evidently associated with his name. It is thought, likewise, that St. Nolf, the name of a parish in the diocese of Vannes, has reference to St. Menou, who is called Menulphus in Latin.

The feast of this holy bishop is kept on the 12th of July, and on that day he is venerated in the ancient French Calendars. In the Additions to Usuard, Greven seems to have been the first to introduce the feast of St. Menulplus into his Martyrology, and from this entry, other calendarists who succeeded derive their data, such as Molanus, Canisius, Maurolycus, and Ferrarius. The latter adds, that in the lists of the Bishops of Bourges his name is not to be found, and most probably because St. Menulphus had been bishop in some other city. According to the Bollandists, Castellan had been the first to assign him a proper See, on the faith of a mere popular tradition.

Assiduous at his work, and engaged in pious exercises, the present holy man was still able to disengage himself for the spiritual interests of others. He only found delight in doing the will of his Maker. The deeply religious and moral example of his life and actions in his intercourse with men had a potent influence over their souls, and when the shadows of death fell upon him, the labours he had so unostentatiously wrought at home and abroad were well rewarded by that Divine Master, for whose sake he had sacrificed earth and its pleasures to obtain the happiness of Heaven.

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