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Catholic Heroes . . . St. Aubert

September 8, 2015 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Near the west coast of France just below England lies the See of Avranches. If you take a drive around the waterways for about 24 miles, you will arrive at one of the world’s most famous pilgrimages, another World Heritage Site — one of 41 in France. This place, Mont Saint-Michel, is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, since he appeared to St. Aubert and ordered him to erect the church in his honor.
Born late in the seventh century, Aubert was born of a noble family from Genetas. He received an extensive education and became known for both his wisdom and his piety. “He behaved in such a way that all considered him an angel of Heaven rather than a mortal man.”
When the See of Avranches was left vacant, the people gathered to elect another bishop, engaging in fasting and prayer. As they invoked the Holy Spirit to lead them in the task of finding another bishop, they heard a voice with heavenly authority say to them, “Aubert the Presbyter will be your bishop.”
Aubert dutifully accepted the position of serving as bishop of the Church. After his installation while he slept one night, he had a dream in which St. Michael the Archangel appeared to him. He instructed Aubert to build a church in St. Michael’s honor on nearby Mount Tumba, now known as Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.
However, Aubert doubted the authenticity of the visionary dream and did not do as ordered. In fact, he thought that it was demonic deception.
Hence, St. Michael appeared to Aubert a second time, again commanding him to build a church in his honor. He rebuked Aubert for ignoring his previous instructions. Being a faithful man, Aubert then spent time in fasting and prayer to discern whether this was the work of a good angel or a bad angel. He begged God for enlightenment regarding the matter.
Sacred Scripture frequently illustrates the way the number three plays a prominent role in the workings of the Lord. Three times he fell during his passion, three times he asked Peter if he loved him and here also, Aubert had to be told three times to build the church.
In 708, as St. Michael appeared to Aubert a third time, the angel severely scolded the bishop for being so difficult. During this third visitation, St. Michael pointed at Aubert, poking him in the forehead while repeating his command to build the church and directing him to the exact position upon which it was to be built. Dare I say that St. Michael finally got through to him? Where the archangel touched his head, a permanent hole was left in Aubert’s skull.
He informed Aubert that where he would find a bull which had been stolen would be the place where the church was to be built. This time Aubert believed the vision to be true, arose the next morning, and related the incident to his clerics, showing them the place where St. Michael had touched his head.
The men reacted with great joy that not only had their bishop received a visitation, but that the visitation had been from the Prince of the Celestial Court, St. Michael, who would later play such a large role in the future of France.
As they walked to the island upon which Mount Tumba stood, they sang psalms and hymns. Many people joined the pilgrimage as news of their purpose spread. The journey of three hours ended at the top of the mountain where the stolen bull was found just as St. Michael had predicted.
With much more hast than previously demonstrated, Aubert gathered workers to erect the church. Aubert stayed on the small island until the structure was complete. He sat on a nearby rock supervising the construction — a rock which had been preserved in his honor.
When the structure was complete, Aubert regretted not having proper relics to place in the church for pilgrims to venerate. He need not have worried. St. Michael appeared to him again instructing Aubert to send two monks to a similar shrine in Italy.
When the two monks arrived at the shrine of St. Michael the Archangel on Mount Gargano, they went to the abbot. Upon learning of their mission to get some relics for the replica shrine built in France, the abbot greatly rejoiced.
St. Michael had also visited the shrine on Mount Gargano leaving his footprints on a rock and a purple veil on the altar. The abbot readily provided the requested relics to the two monks. He gave them a piece of the stone which had the footprints on it and he also gave them a piece of the purple cloth left by the angel.
As the two monks made their way back to the northwest coast of France, many miracles happened because of the relics — some of which were blind people regaining their sight. They continued their journey, arriving just as St. Aubert was preparing to celebrate the dedication Mass.
Aubert decided to wait for the arrival of the relics which the monks were carrying. When they arrived, the Mass was celebrated with great joy and those attending were able to venerate the relics.
Soon after the dedication had been completed in 709, Aubert appointed 12 canons to oversee the church. Furthermore, he donated all the lands that he had inherited from his family for the maintenance of the shrine. He then returned to Avranches to fulfill his responsibilities as bishop of that diocese.
In 720 St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, died. His remains were transported with great honor to the church at the top of Mont Saint-Michel where they remained until the French Revolution. At that point the shrine was looted — after more than 1,000 years of expansion and development by the Benedictines.
The only remaining relic of St. Aubert lies in the St. Gervais Basilica in Avranches. Pilgrims can see the skull of St. Aubert and the hole left there by the finger of St. Michael. St. Aubert’s feast day is celebrated on September 10.
By 1790 the shrine had grown to cover most of the island. In 1793 it was turned into a prison until closed in 1863. In 1872 the government of France began the restoration of this great abbey. Now millions of pilgrims come from all over the world to visit Mont Saint-Michel.
Dear St. Aubert, how greatly we need the protection of St. Michael during these days of trials and temptations. Please, we beg of you, intercede for us to be confident in his protection and strong in our resistance to evil. 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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