Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Faro, Bishop of Meaux, Confessor
THE CITY of Meaux situate on the Marne, ten leagues from Paris, in the time of the ancient Gauls, was subject to the Parisii, and received the first seeds of faith by the preaching of St. Dionysius of Paris about the year 250. St. Sanctinus or Saintin, first bishop of Meaux, is said by some to have been a disciple of that saint in the third age; but Du Plessis1 thinks him to have been the same Saintin who was bishop of Verdun in the fourth century, and whose relics were translated from Meaux to the abbey of St. Vanne at Verdun, in the eleventh century. His successor Antoninus, and Rigomer the ninth bishop of Meaux, are honoured among the saints. But the eminent sanctity of St. Faro, the fourteenth bishop of this see, has rendered his name the most illustrious of all the prelates of this see, who are mentioned in the calendars of the church. His original name is Burgundofaro, and that of his holy sister Burgundofara; the words faro and fara in the Burgundian language signifying of a lineage; so that these names imply that they were of an ancient noble Burgundian family,2 which is attested in the ancient life of St. Faro,3 and by a hymn on St. Faro used in the ninth age. Their father Agneric was one of the principal lords and officers at the court of Theodobert II., king of Austrasia; for Meaux and Brie then belonged to that kingdom, not to Burgundy, as Baillet pretends.4 For though Gontran, king of Orleans and Burgundy, from 561 to 592, possessed the county of Sens, which had formerly been part of Austrasia: the kings of Austrasia were all that time in possession of Meaux. Agneric had by his wife Leodegoadis four children, St. Cagnoald, (who took the monastic habit at Luxeul, under St. Columban,) St. Faro, St. Fara, and St. Agnetrudis. His seat was at Pipimisium, two leagues from Meaux, in the forest of Brie according to the lives of St. Eustatius and St. Faro: which seems the village of Champigne in Brie, rather than Aubigney, as Mabillon conjectured,5 but which lies on the other side. There Agneric harboured St. Columban in 610, and that holy abbot gave his blessing to him and to each of his children, Cagnoald, the eldest, having lived under his discipline since the year 594, and then bearing him company.
St. Faro spent his youth in the court of King Theodobert II. where his life was rather that of a recluse than a courtier. After the death of Theodobert, and that of his brother and successor Theodoric, the saint, in 613, passed to the court of Clotaire II., who reunited the whole French monarchy. When that prince, provoked at the insolent speeches of certain Saxon ambassadors had cast them into prison, and sworn he would cause them to be put to death, St. Faro first prevailed on him to defer the execution twenty-four hours, and afterwards not only to pardon them, but also to send them home loaded with presents. Mabillon quotes certain charters which St. Faro subscribed in quality of referendary or chancellor.6 Dom Du Plessis observes,7 that it is an unpardonable blunder of Yepez,8 who tells us, that St. Faro, made his monastic profession at Rebais, when that abbey was not in being. Trithemius says,9 he took the habit at Luxeul: which is also an evident mistake. For it is certain, that from a secular military state he passed to that of the secular clergy. At court he employed his credit with his prince to protect the innocent, the orphan, and the widow; and to relieve and comfort all that were in distress. The life which he led there was most edifying and holy; prayer and pious meditation were his principal delight, and he inflamed his soul every day more and more with the love of heavenly things. His great virtues and abilities engaged the esteem and affection of the king and the whole nation; yet the world, whilst it flattered and smiled on him, displeased him. His employments in it, how just soever, seemed to distract his mind too much from God, and he saw nothing in it but snares and dangers. One day he entertained his sister St. Fara, who was at that time abbess, on this subject, in such a manner, that, being penetrated more than ever with these sentiments, he was inspired with an earnest desire to forsake the world. Blidechilde, his wife, whose consent he asked, was in the same dispositions; and they parted by mutual consent. She took the religious veil, and retired to a solitary place upon one of her own estates, which seems to have been at Aupigny, where, some years after, she died in the odour of sanctity. St. Faro received the clerical tonsure, and was the ornament of the clergy of Meaux; which episcopal see becoming vacant by the death of the Bishop Gondoald, he was unanimously chosen to fill it, about the year 626.
The holy prelate laboured for the salvation of the souls committed to his charge, with unwearied zeal and attention, and promoted exceedingly their advancement in Christian perfection, and the conversion of those who had not yet forsaken the errors of idolatry. The author of his life tells us that he restored sight to a blind man by conferring on him the sacrament of confirmation, and wrought several other miracles. In 650 he assisted at the council of Sens: he invited holy men into his diocess, and encouraged and promoted pious foundations to be sanctuaries of religion, and nurseries and schools of piety and virtue. Excited by his exhortations and example, many others entered into the same zealous views, and gave themselves up to the most heroic practices of virtue.10
St. Faro afforded a retreat to St. Fiaker, and directed many saints of both sexes in the paths of perfection, and had a share in many pious establishments made by others. A little before his death he founded in the suburbs of the city of Meaux, where he possessed a large estate, the great monastery of the Holy Cross, which now bears his name, and is of the reformed congregation of St. Maur. St. Faro placed in it monks from Luxeul, of the institute of St. Columban; but the rule of St. Bennet was afterwards received here, and the famous abbey of Prum, founded by King Pepin in the Ardennes, in 763, was a filiation of this house. St. Faro, after having peopled his diocess with so many saints, went to receive the recompence of his labours on the 28th of October, in 672, being about fourscore years old, and having governed the church of Meaux forty-six years.11 See the three Latin lives of St. Faro, one compiled by Hildeger, bishop of Meaux, in the ninth century, (ap. Mabil. Act. Ben. t. 2, p. 606,) another in verse, written by Fulcoius, subdeacon of Meaux, in the eleventh century; and a third published by Surius, with alterations of the style; extant genuine in manuscripts at St. Faros, &c. See also Dom Toussaints Du Plessis, the Maurist monk, Hist. de lEglise de Meaux, t. 1, l. 1, n. 41, 42, 43, 64, 73, note 22, 23, 24, 36; and on the plundering of St. Faros church by the Huguenots, ib. l. 4, n. 49, 50, p. 358, t. 2, p. 664.
Note 9. De Vir. illustr. ord. S. Bened., l. 4. c. 129. [back]
Note 10. Among these no one seems to have been more remarkable than a certain lord of the court, and near relation of our saint, called St. Authaire, and by the common people St. Oys, who resided at Ussy, on the Marne, of the parish church of which village he is the titular saint. His two virtuous sons, Ado and Dado, (or St. Owen,) were brought up in the court of Dagobert I., and the former was made treasurer, the latter referendary; but both, whilst they served their prince, aspired only after the solid goods of the life to come. Ado first took the resolution of dedicating himself entirely to God in silence and retirement, and, about the year 630, founded the great monastery of Jouarre, in a forest of that name, in Brie, four leagues from Meaux, to the east, a league beyond Ussy. Here burying himself alive, he broke off all commerce with the world to entertain himself only with God and his own soul on the great affair for which he was created. After a most holy and penitential life of many years, he arrived at the happy term which opened to him a passage to a glorious eternity. Many lords of the first distinction embraced the monastic state in this house, under his direction; and, among others, Agilbert, who, going into England, was chosen bishop of Dorchester, when that see had been some time vacant after the death of St. Birinus; but, returning into France, he died bishop of Paris. His sister, St. Thelehilde, was appointed first abbess of the nunnery of Jouarre, this being a double monastery. She died about the year 660, and is honoured at Meaux on the 10th of October. St. Bertile, one of her nuns, after having been long prioress of this house, and assistant to the abbess, was called to Chelles by St. Bathildes, in 646, and made the first abbess of that royal monastery, situated four leagues from Paris. She governed the abbey of Chelles forty-six years, and died about the year 692. Whilst Ado sanctified the forest of Jouarre by his holy establishment, St. Owen founded, about the year 634, the abbey of Resbac, now called Rebais, three leagues from Jouarre: of this house St. Agilis, called in French Aile, pronounced El, a monk of Luxeul, was appointed first abbot, and is honoured among the saints on the 30th of August. His disciple St. Philibert succeeded him at Rebais, and afterwards founded the abbeys of Jumieges, Nermoutier, Pavilly, Montivilliers, and St. Bennet of Quincy. His disciple St. Regulus, was chosen archbishop of Rheims, and instituted the abbey of Orbais, in the diocess of Soissons. St. Walter, a monk of Rebais, in 1060, instituted and was made first abbot of the famous monastery of St. Germanus, now called St. Martins, at Pontoise, and is mentioned in the calendars on the 8th of April. On the histories and miracles of these saints see Mabillons Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Bened., and his Annales Benedictini, &c. On other pious foundations made at that time at Meaux, see the life of St. Fara. [back]