Today is the feast day of Saint Omer. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Omer (also known as Audomar) was born toward the close of the sixth century at Guldendal, Switzerland. His parents, who were noble and wealthy, paid great attention to his education. They also strove to inspire him with a love for virtue. Upon the death of his mother he entered the monastery of Luxeuil and persuaded his father to accompany him. They sold their worldly goods and distributed the proceeds among the poor. The father and son made their religious profession together. The humility, obedience, mildness and devotion, together with the admirable purity of intention which shone forth in every action of Saint Omer, distinguished him even among his saintly brethren.
Under the direction of Saint Eustachius, Omer studied the Scriptures, in which he acquired remarkable proficiency. When King Dagobert requested the appointment of a bishop to the important city of Terouenne, the capital of the ancient territory of the Morini in Belgic Gaul, Omer was appointed and consecrated in 637.
The greater number of the inhabitants of the region were still pagans, and even the few Christians, through a scarcity of priests, had lapsed. The holy bishop applied himself to his task with such efficacious zeal that in a short time his diocese became one of the most flourishing in France. A pagan overlord who had persecuted the Christians could not resist his exhortations, and after his baptism gave large grants to the church. On one of those terrains Bishop Omer built a monastery in honor of the Blessed Virgin.
About 654, Bishop Omer founded the Abbey of Saint Peter (now the Abbey of Saint Bertin) in Sithiu, soon to rival the old monastery of Luxeuil for the number of learned and zealous men educated there. Several years later he erected the Church of Our Lady of Sithiu, with a small monastery adjoining, which he turned over to the monks of Saint Bertin.
The exact date of his death is unknown, but he is believed to have died about the year 670. The place of his burial is uncertain; most probably he was laid to rest in the church of Our Lady which is now the cathedral of Saint Omer’s.
Image: Statue de Saint Omer dans l’église d’Orval (Manche)