July 31st - St. Germain of Auxerre

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Jul 31, 2022, 2:37:31 AMJul 31
July 31st - St. Germain of Auxerre

In Roman times, Auxerre (Antissiodorum) in north-central France, was
an important city. Germain was born there, became a bishop there, and
from that place achieved wide influence both in Gaul and in the
British Isles. Germanus (his name in Latin) was the child of a
distinguished Gallo-Roman family. Earmarked for civil service, he
studied literature and law in Rome, married a Roman socialite and was
sent back to be governor of Armorica (northwest France).

Governor Germanus was not only a good administrator, but a devout
Christian. So when Bishop Amator of Auxerre died, the Auxerrois
demanded Germanus for their next bishop. He yielded only on their
insistence, was ordained, consecrated and installed. (He was not the
only Roman civil servant to be so drafted: St. Ambrose of Milan and
St. Paulinus of Nola were two others. Germain remained married, for
the Western Church had not yet set up celibacy as a norm.)

Once a bishop, Germanus started to live like one, for he believed that
bishops should set an example of unworldliness and charity. He also
worked with St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, to popularize the monastic
life. The new bishop of Auxerre soon had to deal with the menacing
heresy of Pelagianism. Pelagius, a native of Britain, had begun to
teach that there was no such thing as original sin, and that divine
grace is not necessary for salvation. The implication was that mankind
can save itself, and that the Redemption had been unnecessary, thank

Pope St. Celestine asked the bishops of Gaul to deal with this error.
In 429 A.D., they sent Germanus and St. Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, to
preach against Pelagianism in Great Britain. This was the first of
Germain’s two trips there. By his preaching and miracles, he was able
to outsmart Pelagius in large part. One of his methods was to set up
schools where correct doctrine was taught. It was most likely
Germanus, too, who consecrated St. Patrick a bishop and sent him to
Ireland. Patrick was a strong adversary of Pelagianism. (Another saint
whom Germain “discovered” was St. Genevieve, the future patron saint
of Paris.)

The English Catholic poet Hilaire Belloc wrote a rollicking song about
the saint’s campaign called “Song of the Pelagian Heresy”. Here is one
stanza: See whole song below.

“He thwacked them hard and he thwacked them long
On each and all occasions,
Till they bellowed in chorus loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-di-do-de-oodly-ow.
Their orthodox persuasions.”

Back home St. Germain used his political expertise to good purpose. By
straight talk plus a miracle he persuaded the Roman prefect of Gaul to
lighten oppressive taxes. Again, when the Roman general Aetius sent in
a pagan army to suppress a revolt among the Christians of Armorica,
Germanus, fearing for the welfare of his people, persuaded the pagan
commander to hold off until he himself could go to Ravenna, Italy, and
ask Aetius’ pardon for the insurgents.

Germain won his case at Ravenna. Unfortunately, death overtook him
while he was still there. By now he had become so noted throughout the
Roman Empire that the transportation of his body back to France and
his obsequies at Auxerre constituted one of the most magnificent
funerals ever recorded.

Song of the Pelagian Heresy
By Hillaire Belloc

Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there,
How, whether you went to Heaven or Hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own concern.
Oh, he didn't believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,
He laughed at original sin!

Whereat the Bishop of old Auxerre
(Germanus was his name),
He tore great handfuls out of his hair,
And he called Pelagius Shame:
And then with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly thwhacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall,
They rather had been hanged.
Oh, he thwhacked them hard, and he banged them long,
Upon each and all occasions,
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions!
With my row-ti-tow, ti-oodly-ow,
Their orthodox persu-a-a-sions!

Now the Faith is old and the Devil is bold,
Exceedingly bold indeed;
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Oh--let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.
And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too;
And whatever good things
Our Christendom brings,
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow, Ti-oodly-ow,
Especially barley brew!

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