St. Heribert of Cologne

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


Feast: March 16

Heribert found his life ambition thwarted by his father, but he made the best of it and found another pathway to holiness. He was born at Worms in the latter part of the tenth century and wanted to become a Benedictine monk, after studying as a youth at the abbey of Gorze. But his father disapproved and called him home; upon his return, he was made a canon of the cathedral and was ordained. He became the chancellor of Emperor Otto III and in 998 became archbishop of Cologne.

Since he could not become a monk, St. Heribert of Cologne cultivated an intense spiritual life, at the same time serving his people and his diocese tirelessly. He accompanied the emperor on a trip to Italy, where the emperor caught smallpox and died. It was Heribert who accompanied the body back to Aachen for burial, carrying with him the imperial insignia for the next emperor, St. Henry II. His relations with the new emperor were not the best, but Heribert served the new ruler loyally.

As time went on, the new emperor learned to appreciate the qualities of his chancellor and toward the end of their lives the two saints were very close. All the money he could spare from his own personal income, Heribert gave to the poor, sent money to priests throughout his diocese to help the destitute, and even went to hospitals and private homes to help the poor and the sick. During a great drought in the city, he led a procession through the streets of the city to the church of St. Severinus, and when he rose from his knees at the altar, a torrential rain came down and the year's harvest was saved. People in that part of Germany still pray to him for rain.

While on a pastoral visitation of his diocese, Heribert became ill with fever and had himself brought back to Cologne. He died a few days later and was buried at the monastery of Deutz, which he had founded with the help of Emperor Otto III. He was revered as a kindly bishop who gave himself intensely to prayer and poured the riches of his own spiritual life on his people. The confidante of emperors, he never lost touch with the God he served or the people to whom he was father and shepherd. He died in the year 1021.

Thought for the Day: Sometimes we can be put in what seems an impossible situation, with duties and obligations that seem to contradict each other. Politics and religion do not mix very well, but some are called to have one foot in both. What is important is that God should come first; then everything else falls into place.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': . . . "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem! How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!"—Luke 2:10-12

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.