Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Arnoul, Bishop of Metz, Confessor
AMONG the illustrious saints who adorned the court of King Clotaire the Great, none is more famous than St. Arnoul. He was a Frenchman, born of rich and noble parents; and, having been educated in learning and piety, was called to the court of King Theodebert, in which he held the second place among the great officers of state, being next to Gondulph, mayor of the palace. Though young, he was equally admired for prudence in the council and for valour in the field. By assiduous prayer, fasting, and excessive almsdeeds, he joined the virtues of a perfect Christian with the duties of a courtier. Having married a noble lady called Doda, he had by her two sons, Clodulf and Ansegisus; by the latter the Carlovingian race of kings of France descended from St. Arnoul. Fearing the danger of entangling his soul in many affairs which passed through his hands, he desired to retire to the monastery of Lerins; but being crossed in the execution of his project, passed to the court of King Clotaire. That great monarch, the first year in which he reigned over all France, assented to the earnest unanimous request of the clergy and people of Metz, demanding Arnoul for their bishop. Our saint did all that could be done to change the measures taken, but in vain. He was consecrated bishop in 614, and his wife Doda took the religious veil at Triers. The king obliged Arnoul still to assist at his councils, and to fill the first place at his court. The saint always wore a hair shirt under his garments; he sometimes passed three days without eating, and his usual food was only barley and water. He seemed to regard whatever he possessed as the patrimony of the poor, and his alms seemed to exceed all bounds. His benevolence took in all the objects of charity, but his discretion singled out those more particularly whose greater necessities called more pressingly upon his bounty.
In 622 Clotaire II. divided his dominions, and making his son Dagobert king of Austrasia, appointed St. Arnoul duke of Austrasia and chief counsellor, and Pepin of Landen mayor of his palace. The reign of this prince was virtuous, prosperous, and glorious, so long as Arnoul remained at the helm; but the saint anxiously desiring to retire from all business, that he might more seriously study to secure his own salvation before he should be called hence, never ceased to solicit the king for leave to quit the court. Dagobert long refused his consent; but at length, out of a scruple lest he should oppose the call of heaven, granted it, though with the utmost reluctance. St. Arnoul resigned also his bishopric, and retired into the deserts of Vosge, near the monastery of Remiremont, on the top of a high mountain, where a hermitage is at this day standing. Here the saint laboured daily with fresh fervour to advance in the path of Christian perfection; for the greater progress a person has already made in virtue, the more does the prospect enlarge upon him, and the more perfectly does he see how much is yet wanting in him, and how great a scope is left for exerting his endeavours still more. Who will pretend to have made equal advances with St. Paul towards perfection? yet he was far from ever thinking that he had finished his work, or that he might remit anything in his endeavours. On the contrary, we find him imitating the alacrity of those who run in a race, who do not so much consider what ground they have already cleared, as how much still remains to call forth their utmost eagerness and strength. Nor can there be a more certain sign that a person has not yet arrived at the lowest and first degree of virtue, than that he should think he does not need to aim higher. In this vigorous pursuit St. Arnoul died on the 16th of August in 640. His remains were brought to Metz, and enrich the great abbey which bears his name. The Roman Martyrology mentions him on the 18th of July, on which day the translation of his relics was performed; the Gallican on the 16th of August. See his life, faithfully compiled by his successor, in Mabillon, Act. Bened. t. 2. p. 150. Also Calmet, Hist. de Lorraine, t. 1. l. 9. n. 10, &c., p. 378, 381, &c.; Bosch the Bollandist, t. 5. Jul. p. 423; and D. Cajot, Benedictin monk of St. Arnouls, Les Antiquités des Metz, an. 1761.