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The Catholic Defender: Saint Henry

He is the patron saint of the childless, of Dukes, of the handicapped and those rejected by Religious Orders. St. Henry was born into a royal bloodline, and was destined to become Emperor of Bavaria.

In 1006 he founded the See of Bamberg and built its great Cathedral that was consecrated by Pope Benedict VIII in 1020. During this time also, Henry established a monastery at Bamberg and supported the reforms initiated by the monks of Cluny in France.

Immediately after Henry's death, his legend records, many miracles began to occur around his tomb and in the surrounding towns: children were raised from the dead, a blind woman's eyesight was restored, fishermen survived terrible storms at sea.

Henry was married to Cunegunda of Luxembourg, but they had no children. When he was 34 years old, Henry became king of Germany. As a ruler, Henry concentrated on the good of his people. He built monasteries, helped the poor, fought against unjust seizure of power, and relieved all kinds of oppression.

Henry was known as a man of great faith who maintained a close relationship with the Church. He collaborated with the Church to appoint devout and loyal bishops, reform German bishops, create new dioceses, and endow bishops with temporal power alongside their spiritual power. Henry was also a man of great charity.

As German king and Holy Roman Emperor, Henry was a practical man of affairs. He was energetic in consolidating his rule. He crushed rebellions and feuds. On all sides he had to deal with drawn-out disputes so as to protect his frontiers. This involved him in a number of battles, especially in the south in Italy; he also helped Pope Benedict VIII quell disturbances in Rome. Always his ultimate purpose was to establish a stable peace in Europe.

According to eleventh-century custom, Henry took advantage of his position and appointed as bishops men loyal to him. In his case, however, he avoided the pitfalls of this practice and actually fostered the reform of ecclesiastical and monastic life. He was canonized in 1146.

All in all, this saint was a man of his times. From our standpoint, he may have been too quick to do battle and too ready to use power to accomplish reforms. But granted such limitations, he shows that holiness is possible in a busy secular life. It is in doing our job that we become saints.

PRAYER: God, You filled St. Henry with the abundance of Your grace to govern his earthly empire worthily, and called him to share Your glory in heaven. Through his intercession help us to shun the allurements of the world and come to You with pure minds. Amen.


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