Saint Artold (October 8)

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Saint Artold (by Francisco de Zurbarán)

Two days ago we celebrated the Solemnity of St. Bruno, Father of the Carthusian Order. Today we celebrate St. Artold, a Carthusian monk who was born in the same year of St. Bruno’s death (1101) and died on October 6, 1206 (same date as St. Bruno).

Artold entered the Charterhouse of Portes (France) in 1120. In 1132 he founded the Charterhouse of Arvières -at the request of the bishop of Geneva- and became its first prior. In 1184 he was elected bishop of Belley (France), a position he accepted only out of obedience. He resigned in 1190, aged 89. After resigning he returned to the Charterhouse of Arvières, where he lived as a Carthusian until his death.

One of the most relevant anecdotes of his life is his meeting with St. Hugh, a Carthusian monk who was elected bishop of Lincoln (England). He was visiting France at the time. Herbert Thurston (SJ), biographer of St. Hugo, relates this meeting as follows:

Leaving Belley, which had been governed by several Carthusian Bishops during the past hundred years, St. Hugh next went to visit one who, after St. Anthelmus, might perhaps he counted the most illustrious of them all. This was St. Artold, who had resigned his bishopric, and had retired to the Carthusian monastery of Arvières.

He was of noble birth, and had in early years fled from worldly honours to lead a life of solitude in the cloister. After being professed at Portes, he became Prior of Arvières, where for many years he gave an example of the highest perfection, and used the influence he had acquired to intervene in the disputes resulting from the schism of Octavian. Pope Alexander III listened to him with a deference which showed the high opinion he had conceived of the humble Carthusian Prior.

In 1184, he was elected Bishop of Belley. In vain did he take to flight to escape from this dignity; a miraculous light betrayed his hiding-place, and obliged him to yield to the wishes of the electors. In his episcopal palace, he continued to lead the life of a Carthusian, not, however, neglecting any of his pastoral duties. His charity to the poor and afflicted; his great success in converting sinners; his love of peace, which helped to put an end to many a bitter quarrel, and his unwearying activity in good works, gained for him the love and veneration of all. But in 1190, he obtained permission from Clement III to return to his beloved solitude, and end his days as a simple monk.

He was nearly a hundred years old when he heard of St. Hugh’s arrival at Belley. He had long desired to see the holy Bishop of Lincoln, and at once sent messengers to beg for a visit from him. St. Hugh could not turn a deaf ear to his request. He quitted the high-road to climb the steep rocks which led to the Carthusian monastery of Arvières, a wild retreat overhanging the deep gorges of the Grand-Colombier.

It was on the feast of St. James and of St. Christopher (July 25th) that the two Carthusian Bishops met. Although they were not of the same age, they both longed ardently for Heaven, and were both stricken by that incurable home-sickness which made St. Paul cry out: «have a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.» All their conversation turned upon this subject, of which the hearts of both were full. The other monks wished to catch the echo of these heavenly discourses, and a recreation was accorded at which the two holy men took part.

In the familiar freedom of conversation, St. Artold made a request which surprised his visitor. He asked St. Hugh to acquaint the religious with the terms of the Peace of Andely, which had been signed in his presence by the Kings of England and France. As this was a political event of the deepest import for the tranquillity of the whole country, St. Artold doubtless thought that there was sufficient reason for departing from the ordinary rules of the cloister. But St. Hugh deemed otherwise. He replied in a tone of gentle and respectful pleasantry: «Oh, my venerable lord and father, it is right enough for bishops to hear and retail news, but surely not for monks. It is not fitting that news should penetrate the enclosure of our cells. You would not have me leave the haunts of men in order to carry a budget of news into the desert.» And so saying, he turned the conversation again to spiritual matters. St. Artold was greatly edified by this conduct, and the whole community united in thanking him for his visit and his words of wisdom. They also expressed their gratitude for the alms he had previously obtained for them from King Henry II.

And then the two holy old men took leave of each other, to meet again only in the happier country of the blessed, towards which all their desires were turned. The younger of the two was the first to go home. St. Artold lived until 1206. He was one hundred and five years old at the time of his death.

Source: The Life of Saint Hugh of Lincoln – Hebert Thurston (SJ) London: Burns and Oates, Limited (1898) – pages 488 to 490

Let us pray:

All-powerful God, with the help of Saint Artold’s prayers may we so distinguish ourselves in this life’s laborious struggle that we may obtain eternal rest. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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