Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Gerard, Bishop of Toul, Confessor
GERARD was descended of a noble family, and born at Cologne. His fathers name was Ingranne: his mother, who was called Emma, was struck dead with lightning. Gerard, then in his youth, was much afflicted at this accident, and from that time consecrated himself entirely to a life of penance and devotion. Some time after he took the clerical tonsure, and entered himself in a community of clergy, who performed the divine office in the church of St. Peter, which was the cathedral, and followed the institute of the regular canons, probably either of St. Chrodegang or of Aix-la-Chapelle. The reputation of Gerards fervent piety reached the imperial court, and whilst he was cellarer in this community he was promoted to the bishopric of Toul, vacant by the death of St. Gauzlin, in the beginning of the year 963. Bruno, archbishop of Cologne and duke of Lorrain, prime minister or general lieutenant of the empire to his brother Otho I., advanced him to that dignity, which the saint accepted only by compulsion and in obedience to his superiors. He recited every day thirteen canonical hours by joining the office of the monks with that of the canons, of which we have several other examples in that age. The holy scriptures and the lives of the saints he read daily, and meditated on them a good part of the night. He had an extraordinary talent at preaching, which he exercised with great assiduity, often sending zealous clergymen to preach in country parishes. He rebuilt his cathedral, dedicated to St. Stephen, in 981, though the structure which we now see, was only raised in 1447. The monastery of St. Evre, or Aper (which had been founded by that holy bishop of Toul towards the end of the fifth century,) was enriched by our saint, in which his predecessor, St. Gauzlin, had settled the rule of St. Bennet, till then unknown in that province, says Widric. Le Cointe, and F. Benoit, the Capuchin,1 think the rule of Agaunum, or rather that of St. Columban, was before observed in that house. St. Gauzlin had founded in another suburb of Toul, a new monastery in honour of St. Mansuy or Mansuet, the first apostle of that country. This St. Gerard took particularly under his protection, and became its principal and most munificent founder. The church of St. Gengou and Toul, and some others, were also founded by St. Gerard, who, out of devotion to St. Martin, whom he regarded as his principal patron and model, was a particular benefactor to the monastery of St. Martin, on the Meuse, near Sorcy, in his diocess. In 981 he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and in 982 exerted his charity in a wonderful manner in relieving the poor in his diocess in the time of a great famine, and afterwards under a dreadful pestilence. All the abbeys of the country were recommended to his care by the Emperor Otho II. in 974, and he founded the great hospital at Toul; also a community of Scottish (or Irish) and Greek monks. The reputation of the Scottish monks, whom St. Cadroe had lately placed at St. Clements, at Metz, and in other parts, was such, that St. Gerard thought something wanting to his diocess till he had procured a settlement for some of these servants of God in it. These Greek monks established schools in their language, which were very useful and remarkable, as appears by the great progress which Cardinal Humbert, in his youth a monk at Moien-Moutier, in Lorraine, and many others, made in that literature. The Scots also taught the sciences: for, by the great encouragement which St. Gauzlin and St. Gerard gave to learned men and to useful studies, during the sixty years which they successively governed the diocess of Toul, it became one of the most flourishing provinces in the church for learning and piety.2 St. Gerard dreaded that learning, which makes not men more humble and more virtuous. To shun this fatal rock, upon which so many students split, he took great care that all scholars, especially those who were destined to the church, applied themselves still with greater solicitude and assiduity to all the exercises of an interior life than to their studies. By making this the constant rule of his own conduct, he had not the regret which a certain great man3 is said to have expressed in his last moments, for having taken more pains to cultivate his understanding with science than to correct and improve his will by virtue. By mortification, compunction, and heavenly contemplation, he nourished in his soul a constant spirit of devotion, which is the spring of a spiritual life, and which consists in a close uninterrupted union of the heart to God. By this he daily forgot the world, and banished its love more and more perfectly out of his heart, purified more and more its affections, and raised his soul continually to higher degrees of perfection in the divine love, and in all other virtues. In his heavenly contemplations he found, by his own experience, in a manner which words can never teach, that in the lowest degree of this exercise God often communicates himself to a soul with such excess of sweetness, that a thousand years spent in all the pleasures which the world can afford, bear no proportion to what a soul tastes in one minute with her God. His conversation had such charms to him, and his divine love filled his soul with such inexpressible chaste delights, that it seemed as it were impossible to him for his soul to love any other thing but God, or to find any satisfaction but in him, and in his love and holy will. St. Gerard passed from these exercises and labours to the full possession of God in the eternal kingdom of his glory, on the night between the 22nd and 23rd of April, in the year 994, having been bishop thirty-one years. Widric, the learned and pious abbot of St. Apers, or Evres, at Toul, and reformer of that and several other great abbeys in those parts, by order of Bruno, who was made bishop of Toul in 1026, wrote the life of St. Gerard. Bruno being raised to the popedom in 1048, under the name of Leo IX., canonized St. Gerard with great pomp in a council which he held at Rome, in 1050.4 Being at Toul the same year he caused his body to be taken up and enshrined on the 30th of October.5 After this ceremony Widric added a second book to the life of St. Gerard, on his canonization; and afterwards a third, on the translation of his relics, with an account of some miracles. This work, which is edifying and well written, is given imperfect by Henschenius,6 but entire by Dom. Martenne,7 and by Dom. Calmet, in his proofs of his history of Lorraine.8 It had been before published in French, with long notes, by F. Benedict Picard, the Capuchin, in 1700, in 12mo. That author reprinted the same in his Ecclesiastical and Civil History of Toul, which he published in that city in 1707.