The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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January 12, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

So long ago, but not really

Lots to learn from fifth century's Honoratus

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Some saints can seem very removed from our times by how long ago they lived and the differences in conditions then and now. Take, for example, St. Honoratus.

Born in the late 4th century into a distinguished pagan Roman family in Gaul (now France), he received an outstanding education.

As a young man, Honoratus denounced idol worship and became a Christian. Soon, he converted his brother, Venantius. Despite their father's objections, they traveled to a secluded place in Greece to live as hermits. They invited another hermit, St. Caprasius, to accompany them and serve as their mentor.

But Venantius died in Greece before they could start a hermitage, so Honoratus and Caprasius returned to Gaul. Once there, Honoratus lived as a hermit in the mountains near Fréjus and later on one of the Lérins islands - now called St. Honorat in his honor - near Antibes off the French Riviera.

He soon attracted followers and, in about 400, founded Lérins Monastery. Some of the group lived in community in the main building; others as hermits in their own cells.

He formed their rule by borrowing heavily from the rule of St. Pachomius (292-348), who started numerous monasteries for men and convents for women in Egypt. He is considered the founder of the monastic community. St. Benedict also used Pachomius' rule in writing his own rule.

Many who joined Honoratus' community were young men of high rank. He was able to turn them into Christian leaders, including bishops. It is believed St. Patrick trained there for his missionary work in Ireland. Honoratus was known for treating each monk as an individual, tailoring his approach to match their needs and temperament.

In 426, despite his objections, Honoratus was named Archbishop of Arles in southeast France. He died there three years later. We celebrate his feast on Jan. 16.

So what can we learn nearly 1,600 years later from a monk who lived during the waning days of the Roman Empire?

Several lessons, including how our life can affect the lives of many others eager for example and direction. We also can learn that, if our course is right, we can't let others deter us. Like Honoratus, who thought he should be a hermit in a desert, we must be open to the possibility of changes in our plans.

And, just as Honoratus rejected the worship of idols to become a Christian, we need to ask ourselves as Christians what idols of materialism lead us from God.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, 365 Saints and Voices of the Saints.

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