Sunday, December 1, 2013


St. Amand

Amand of Maastricht, Abbot
 also known as Amandus
 Born at Nantes, Lower Poitou, France, c. 584; died at Elnon in Belgium, c. 679; feast day formerly February 1.

Feastday: February 6
584 - 675


This great missionary was born in lower Poitou about the year 584. At the age of twenty, he retired to a small monastery in the island of Yeu, near that of Re. He had not been there more than a year when his father discovered him and tried to persuade him to return home. When he threatened to disinherit him, the saint cheerfully replied, "Christ is my only inheritance." Amand afterward went to Tours, where he was ordained, and then to Bourges, where he lived fifteen years under the direction of St. Austregisilus, the bishop, in a cell near the cathedral. After a pilgrimage to Rome, he returned to France and was consecrated bishop in 629 without any fixed See, receiving a general commission to teach the Faith to the heathens. He preached the gospel in Flanders and northern France, with a brief excursion to the Slavs in Carinthia and perhaps, to Gascony. He reproved King Dagobert I for his crimes and accordingly, was banished. But Dagobert soon recalled him, and asked him to baptize his newborn son Sigebert, afterwards to become a king and a saint. The people about Ghent were so ferociously hostile that no preacher dared venture among them. This moved Amand to attempt that mission, in the course of which he was sometimes beaten and thrown into the river. He persevered, however, and in the end people came in crowds droves to be baptized.

As well as being a great missionary, St. Amand was a father of monasticism in ancient Belgium, and a score of monasteries claimed him as founder. He found houses at Elnone (Saint-Amand-les-Eaux), near Tournai, which became his headquarters, St. Peters on Mont-Blendin at Ghent, but probably not St. Bavo's there as well; Nivells, for nuns, with Blessed Ida and St. Gertrude, Barisis-au-Bois, and probably three more. It is said, though possibly apocryphal, that in 646 he was chosen bishop of Maestricht, but that three years later, he resigned that See to St. Remaclus and returned to the missions which he had always had most at heart. He continued his labors among the heathens until a great age, when, broken with infirmities, he retired to Elnone. There he governed as Abbot for four years, spending his time in preparing for the death which came to him at last soon after 676. That St. Amand was one of the most imposing figures of the Merovingian epoch, is disputed by no serious historian; he was not unknown in England, and the pre-Reformation chapel of the Eyston family at east Hendred in Birkshire is dedicated in his honor.

 Amand's pious parents are said to have been lords of the region where he was born. By vocation, Amand became a monk about 604 at a monastery on the island of Yeu (Oye). He had been there less than one year, when his father found him out, and desperately tried to persuade him to quit that state of life. To his threats of disinheritance, the saint cheerfully answered: "Christ is my only inheritance." Amand moved to Tours where he was ordained, and then was a hermit near the cathedral at Bourges, France, for 15 years under the direction of Bishop Saint Austregisilius before setting out to convert unbelievers. At Bourges he lived an austere life. His clothing was a single sackcloth, and his sustenance barley-bread and water.

 On his return from a pilgrimage to Rome at about age 45, he was consecrated a missionary bishop in 629, with no see. Amand was a tireless preacher, a wandering saint who worked as far afield as Flanders, among the Slavs of Carinthia along the River Danube, among the Basques in Navarre, and possibly in Gascony. Although the saint was exiled for censuring King Dagobert I, Amand continued his work elsewhere. He was soon recalled by Dagobert, who threw himself at Amand's feet to beg his pardon and had him baptize his new-born son, Saint Sigebert III, afterwards king.

 Despite initial difficulties, Amand was highly successful in evangelizing the area around Ghent. The idolatrous people about Ghent were so savage, that no preacher wanted to venture among them. This moved the saint to choose that mission. While he had the support of the Frankish kings, he often met with so much opposition from the peoples he tried to convert that Dagobert strongly suggested that Amand use force. During the course of his evangelizing Amand was often beaten, and sometimes thrown into the river. Undaunted, he continued preaching, though for a long time he saw no fruit, and supported himself by his labor. The miracle of his raising a dead man to life, at last opened the eyes of the barbarians, and the country came in crowds to receive baptism, destroying the temples of their idols with their own hands.

 He founded numerous monasteries in Belgium, including Mont-Blandin (and perhaps Mount Bavon) at Ghent and the Abbey of Elnon (later called Saint-Amand), as well as a convent at Nivelles. Some incorrectly say that he was chosen bishop of Maastricht, and that after three years he resigned to return to missionary work, although Pope Saint Martin had encouraged him to persevere. He spent the last four years of his life as abbot of Elnon Monastery near Tournai and died there, aged almost 90, after dictating his testament which has survived. His relics are kept at the monastery where he died.

 Amand's cultus was widespread in Flanders and Picardy, and reached England through visits of churchmen such as Saint Dunstan to his monasteries in Ghent or Elnon. His name occurs in several medieval English calendars, and a chapel is dedicated to him at East Hendred. The Sarum Breviary honored Saint Amandus and Saint Vedast with an office of nine lessons

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