Wednesday 18th July 2018

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Catholic Heroes… St. Medard

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By CAROLE BRESLIN

Detachment from worldly goods and temporal pleasures sometimes comes to a person after years of devotions, fasting, and prayer. By giving up one vice at a time or practicing one virtue and mastering that one, then moving on to the next, a person can grow in holiness.
Occasionally, our Lord will bring a child into the world who practices such heroic virtue from his earliest days, that it is clear he will become a great servant of God. St. Medard was such a man, becoming one of the most distinguished prelates in the history of France.
Both his parents possessed royal lineages with his father, Nectaridus, an important French nobleman in the king’s court, and his mother, Protagia, coming from an ancient line of Romans. She inherited several estates which she brought to the marriage.
Medard was born around 457 in Salency, Oise, Picardy in France. He accompanied his mother in serving the needy. Her serene nature and excellent example of charity and piety led her husband to conversion and Medard to excel in holiness at an early age.
From his infancy, Medard was trained to love and help the poor. Thus when he came upon a poor blind beggar trembling with cold, he gave the man his cloak. When Medard came home in such cold weather with no overcoat, his parents questioned him about it and he told them that when he saw a fellow Christian man in such dire need that he could not fail to give him his coat.
This was not an isolated incident, but a common generosity that he practiced regularly. At that time in France, it was common practice for a young boy to tend the family’s herd of cows. When out in the field with the animals, Medard would see people who were hungry and without hesitation he would share his meal with them, frequently going without his dinner.
Although he came from a wealthy family where food was plentiful and youth tend to indulge their appetites, Medard found great joy in fasting. Likewise, he daily spent time in prayer and meditation which supported his practice of uncommon virtue.
When he was old enough to leave home, Medard was sent to Vermand, the capital of his province. He finished his course of studies there and then went to Tourney, where he served in the court of Childeric I.
Many men would be honored and thrilled to be one of the elite men admitted to the King’s inner circle, but Medard found the experience disheartening, knowing that such regal and spectacles and sumptuous meals would never bring him the joy of sacrificing for love of God.
His faithful parents, certainly not worldly people seeking advancement for their son, readily called Medard back to Vermand. They contacted the bishop, imploring him to accept Medard as his student to study doctrine and the Sacred Scriptures.
The bishop agreed and began instructing Medard, expecting a typical youth who was simply acceding to his parents’ demands. The bishop was surprised not only at Medard’s piety, his tears during prayers, and his prompt obedience, but also by how quickly he mastered his studies. In addition, Medard pursued many mortifications that — as the bishop related — he was clever in hiding from others.
However, if someone remarked to Medard that he was industrious and rigorous in his spiritual life, he would demur, claiming that he was guilty of sloth and full of shortcomings.
Around 490 Medard was ordained, developing into a vibrant priest fired up with the zeal of the Holy Spirit. His constant fasts, mortifications, prayers, and meditations brought great fruit to his efforts. He loved the downtrodden and the poor giving, to them generously. His example brought credibility to his preaching and his admonitions for the people to live holier lives.
Thus when Bishop Alomer died, Medard was unanimously selected to succeed him. St. Remigius, who had baptized King Clovis in 496, consecrated Medard as bishop. The new bishop, well aware of the seriousness of his new responsibilities, increased his penances. He did not let his age keep him from laboring for the Church — rather, he worked harder.
Sadly, during Medard’s service as bishop, the Huns and the Vandals descended on France, destroying Vermand. Bishop Medard was not discouraged during this crisis, but saw it as an opportunity to practice patience, service, charity, fortitude, and wisdom. By this suffering he would join in the cross of Christ, the light of the World, in an era of darkness and discouragement.
The devastation was so widespread that Medard was forced to move the seat of the diocese to Noyon — a town with better fortifications. Today nothing remains of that once bustling city except an abbey rebuilt years later.
In the neighboring Diocese of Tournai, both the clergy and the lay faithful witnessed the loving yet firm leadership of Bishop Medard. They petitioned for him to be their bishop, too. Faced with this unusual dilemma, St. Remigius granted their wish by joining the two dioceses together under Bishop Medard, which lasted for the next 500 years.
Although the Romans had attempted to civilize the province of Tournai, it remained mostly pagan. Not to be discouraged, Bishop Medard traveled throughout his extensive diocese to convert the people. In Flanders, the people were particularly violent and rude, but the bishop was not intimidated. He persevered with gentleness, humility, charity, and extraordinary determination. After many years and much suffering, the people became a Christian nation and with the great undertaking completed, Bishop Medard returned to Noyon.
In 544, he performed another startling act. The Queen of France, Radegund, received the religious veil from the bishop as her husband, King Clotaire, approved.
The following year Bishop Medard fell ill. The king learned of this and rushed to Medard’s bedside, asking for a final blessing. Medard died shortly after the king left on June 8, 545. Many pilgrims came to the tomb of Medard and received so many miracles that Clotaire once again came to Medard.
Clotaire had been a cruel and ambitious youth with many sins on his conscience. Medard had inspired the king to change his ways and thus he sought to expiate his sins. He was devoted to Bishop Medard and so he had his remains transferred to Soissons, where he had an abbey built in Medard’s honor. The king even assisted in carrying the sacred burden on its journey to the building site where Medard would be interred.
His memorial is celebrated on June 8.
Dear St. Medard, as you served Christ the King, you suffered the attack and devastation of pagans, but continued to bring hope and love to the people. As we suffer for faithfulness, obtain the grace for us to love our enemies and with heroic charity, such as yours, to win souls for the Kingdom. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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