Today is the feast day of Saint Medard. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Medard was one of the most illustrious prelates of the Church of France in the late fifth and the sixth century. He was born in Picardy of a pious and noble family in about the year 457, in the time of Childeric and Saint Remigius. His brother, Saint Gildard, would later become Archbishop of Rouen; Saint Owen and other authors say they were twins. His father, Nectardus, was of Frankish origin, while his mother, named Protagia, was Gallo-Roman. (2)
From his childhood Saint Medard manifested the most tender compassion for the poor. On one occasion he gave a fine new cloak to a destitute blind man, and when asked why he had done so, he answered that the misery of a fellow member in Christ so affected him that he could not refuse to give him part of his own clothes. He gave one of his father’s horses to a poor man who had just lost his only horse by an accident; but when his father counted his animals that evening, he found the number unaltered. This miracle caused the parents to allow their son to bestow alms as he wished. As a young man he prophesied to a companion and friend, the future Saint Eleutherius, that he would later be raised to the government of the see of Tournai. (1)
The Bishop of Vermand decided to confer on him Holy Orders. Forced, in spite of his objections, to accept this heavy charge, he devoted himself zealously to his new duties. Since Vermand and the northern part of France in general were then generally troubled by wars and exposed to the incursions of the barbarians, he removed his episcopal see in 531 from Vermand, a little city without defence, to Noyon, the strongest place in that region. (2)
The annals tell us that, to assist Saint Remigius, the two brothers were present in the cathedral of Rheims, for the baptism of Clovis and his large army of Franks in 496. Saint Gildard was named to the archbishopric of Rouen towards the end of the century, where according to its archives, he provided in all things for the needs of his people until he died in 545.
In the year 530, the thirteenth bishop of Vermand died, and Saint Medard was unanimously chosen to fill the vacancy. He was consecrated by Saint Remigius, bishop of Rheims. The new bishop found it necessary to transfer the seat of his episcopacy, because the region of Vermand had been recently devastated during the invasions of the Huns and Vandals. Profanation was threatening; thus he moved his center to Noyon. Pope Hormisdas named him also to the episcopal throne of Tournai, uniting the two dioceses without depriving either city of its episcopal title.
After Saint Medard had completed his great work in Flanders, he returned to Noyon, where shortly afterwards he fell ill. Before he died, King Clotaire, son of Clovis, whom he had brought to penance, prevailed upon him to accept being buried in a magnificent basilica, which he intended to build to serve as his sepulcher. In 545 the entire kingdom lamented his death, as his brother Saint Gildard was mourned in the same year in the region of Rouen. In the two bishops the faithful had lost their common fathers and protectors.
Image: Bleiglasfenster in der romanischen Kirche Notre-Dame in Piégros-la-Clastre, Darstellung: hl. Medard (3)