St. Eucherius, Bishop of Orleans, Confessor
Feast day: February 20
Benedictine bishop of Orleans, France, exiled for opposing Charles Martel, the famous and powerful Mayor of the Palace. Born in Orleans, Eucherius became a Benedictine at Jumieges about 714 and bishop in 721. He immediately set about protesting Charles Martel's seizure of Church properties. Charles exiled Eucherius to Cologne, Germany, where he became very popular as a result. Eucherius was then held captive in Liege, France, but was allowed to retire to Saint Trond Abbey near Maastricht, Netherlands, where he died in the monastery.
St. Eucherius, mother who was a lady of eminent virtue, and of the first quality at Orleans, while she was with child of him made a daily offering of him to God, and begged nothing for him but divine grace. When he was born, his parents dedicated him to God, and set him to study when he was but seven years old, resolving to omit nothing that could be done towards cultivating his mind, or forming his heart. His improvement in virtue kept pace with his progress in learning; he meditated assiduously on the sacred writings, especially on St. Paul’s manner of speaking on the world, and its enjoyments, as mere empty shadows, that deceive us and vanish away; and took particular notice that that apostle says, the wisdom of those who love the pleasures and riches of this life is no better than folly before God. 1 These reflections, at length, sunk so deeply into his mind, that he resolved to quit the world. To put this design in execution, about the year 714, he retired to the abbey of Jumiege, on the banks of the Seine, in the diocess of Rouen. When he had spent six or seven years there in the practice of penitential austerities and obedience, Suavaric, his uncle, bishop of Orleans, died: the senate and people, with the clergy of that city, deputed persons to Charles Martel, mayor of the palace, to beg his permission to elect Eucherius to the vacant see. That prince granted their request, and sent with them one of his principal officers of state to conduct him from his monastery to Orleans. The saint’s affliction at their arrival was inexpressible, and he entreated the monks to screen him from the dangers that threatened him. But they preferred the public good to their private inclinations, and resigned him up for that important charge. He was received at Orleans, and consecrated with universal applause, in 721. Though he received the episcopal character with grievous apprehensions of its obligations and dangers, he was not discouraged, but had recourse to the supreme pastor for assistance in the discharge of his duties, and devoted himself entirely to the care of his church. He was indefatigable in instructing and reforming his flock, and his zeal and even reproofs were attended with so much sweetness and charity, that it was impossible not to love and obey him.
Charles Martel, to defray the expenses of his wars and other undertakings, and to recompense those that served him, often stripped the churches of their revenues, and encouraged others to do the same. St. Eucherius reproved these encroachments with so much zeal, that flatterers represented it to the prince, as an insult offered to his person; therefore, in the year 737, Charles in his return to Paris, after having defeated the Saracens in Aquitain, took Orleans in his way, ordered Eucherius to follow him to Verneuil upon the Oise, in the diocess of Beauvais, where he then kept his court, and banished him to Cologn. The extraordinary esteem which his virtue procured him in that city, moved Charles to order him to be conveyed thence to a strong place in Hasbain, now called Haspengaw, in the territory of Liege, under the guard of Robert, governor of that country. The governor was so charmed with his virtue, that he made him the distributer of his large alms, and allowed him to retire to the monastery of Sarchinium, or St. Tron’s. Here prayer and contemplation were his whole employment, till the year 743, in which he died on the 20th of February. He is named in the Roman, and other martyrologies. See his original life by one of the same age, with the preliminary dissertation of Henschenius, and the remarks of Mabillon, sæc. 3. Ben. The pretended vision of the damnation of Charles Martel, is an evident interpolation, found only in later copies, and in Surius.