Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Hospicius, or Hospis, Anchoret
WHILST the wilful blindness, impiety, and abominations of a wicked world cry to heaven for vengeance, the servants of God, trembling under the apprehension of his judgments, endeavour to deprecate his just anger by torrents of tears, with which they bewail their own spiritual miseries, and the evils in which the world is drowned. Thus Jeremiah wept over the infidelities of his people. St. Gildas and other British saints in the sixth century, were the Jeremies of their country. Salvian of Marseilles, by his elegant and pathetic lamentations, has deserved to be styled the Jeremy of his age. Many other religious persons, by redoubling the fervour of their prayers, the abundance of their tears, and the austerity of their penance have, in every age, strenuously endeavoured to escape divine vengeance, and to avert the same from others. St. Hospicius was eminently endowed with this spirit of zeal and penance, The place of his birth is not known; but that of his retirement was a rock near Villefranche, about a league from Nice, in Piedmont. Here he built a monastery, but lived himself in a little tower at some distance: from him the place is called St. Sospit. The holy hermit loaded himself with a heavy iron chain, and his garment was a rough hair shirt, made of large hair of camels. His food was a little coarse bread, and a few dates, with water; in Lent it consisted only of the roots of certain Egyptian herbs, which merchants brought him from Alexandria to Nice. He foretold distinctly the coming of the Lombards,1 and exhorted the inhabitants to save themselves by flight. When a troop of those barbarians plundered his monastery and mountain, finding him chained in his voluntary dungeon, they took him for some notorious malefactor, and asked him of what crimes he was guilty? He answered them of many of the deepest dye; meaning his sins, which in a spirit of humility he had always before his eyes. At these words one of the Lombards taking him for some murderer, lifted up his sword to despatch him; but his arm became suddenly benumbed and motionless, till the saint restored it sound. This and other miracles converted the rage of the barbarians into veneration for his person. St. Gregory of Tours, who was contemporary with him, relates other predictions and miracles of this great saint; though the most wonderful of his miracles was the edifying example of his life, by which he preached to sinners a saving fear of the divine judgments still more powerfully than by his zealous exhortations. His happy death happened about the year 580, on the 15th of October, on which day his festival is celebrated at Nice; though, on account of a translation of his relics, the 21st of May is consecrated to his memory in the Roman Martyrology. See S. Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc. l. 6, c. 6, et de Glor. Confess. c. 97. Aimoinus, l. 3, c. 38. Paulus Diaconus, l. 3. Petrus Jofredus, in Nicæa Illustrata, Par. 1, t. 10. Grævius, in Thesauro Antiqu. Ital., t. 9, par. 6, p. 114. Otto Frisingensis, Constant. Porphyr, &c.
Note 1. The Lombards were so called, not from a kind of long sword, as some have pretended, but from their long beards, which they never shaved or cut; Long baer, as Paulus Diaconus, the original historian of this nation, positively assures us, (l. 1, c. 9, p. 411, ap. Murator. Scriptor. Italiæ, t. 1,) and as Joseph Assemani proves from other authorities. Muratori favours the same etymology, (Annali dItalia, t. 6,) Paulus Diac. (de Gestis Longobardorum, l. 1, c. 1, 2, ed. Murator. Scrip. Ital. t. 1, p. 408,) and Fredegarius inform us, that they came originally from Scandinavia into Germany, and that from the banks of the Danube in Noricum and Pannonia, they penetrated into Italy in 575. They were originally a nation of the Goths in Sweden, and were called Longobardi by Tacitus and succeeding writers. [back]