Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saint Henry's Day



Today is the traditional feast of Saint Henry, who, if I am not mistaken, is the only German monarch ever to be declared a saint. He was born in Bavaria in 972 to Duke Henry II, and succeeded his father as duke in 995. When the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry's cousin Otto, died in 1002, Henry was elected to be his successor. On 14 February, 1014, he was coronated Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Benedict VIII. He ruled the empire until his death ten years later.


Henry was a holy and faithful husband, king and emperor. He helped in the reformation and reorganization of the churches in his realm, established several monasteries, and built the cathedral at Bamberg. The picture you see here is of a statue of Henry at the Bamberg Cathedral.
Saint Henry was a ruler who could have used his status and privilege to live like King Herod. Instead, he lived ascetically, and took the penitential seasons seriously. He was an example of Christian piety for the people of Germany, and the empire.
Some of the stories of Henry's sanctity and asceticism are pure legend, and seem exaggerated, such as the story that his marriage was virginal. It is not necessary for us to buy all of these accounts, of course. Nevertheless, he was surely a holy and pious king, a model for Christian rulers of all time. He fell asleep in Christ while at his residence in Gottingen, in 1024.

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