Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Bavo, Confessor

detail of a painting of Saint Bavo of Ghent, Hieronymous Bosch, right outer wing of the Last Judgement triptych, grisaille on panel, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna, Austria, latter 15th century; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Bavo was born on the boundaries of Brabant. His father was a Count, his mother of royal lineage, and both were, very pious. Bavo was led by them in the path that leads to heaven. On arriving at manhood, he was, with the consent of his parents, united to Ageltrude, a daughter of Count Adilion, who was lord over one part of Brabant. Bavo lived several years in Christian love and unity with his spouse, and when she was taken away from him by death, he was deeply grieved and began to comprehend more than ever the vanity of all that is temporal and the inconstancy of all earthly happiness. From this came his resolution to seek in future only after eternal happiness. Hearing that the holy bishop Amandus preached the word of God with great success in Ghent, which at that period, was still in the blindness of Paganism, he went thither, in order to hear the apostolic man and to ask his advice. After having heard the bishop preach several times, his heart was so deeply moved, that he did not leave the Saint, but accompanied him everywhere. At length, he made known his wish to enter the religious state, and to give his services to the Church at Ghent. The bishop, after convincing himself of the ability and virtue of Bavo, ordained him priest. Bavo then sold the greater part of his property, and spent the money he received for it partly to relieve the poor, and partly to erect a Church, and resolved to serve God, for the future, in voluntary poverty, He mortified his body with watching, fasting and other penances to such an extent that it became necessary to moderate his fervor. To prayer and meditation he devoted all the time he could dispose of.

Some time later, he went into a dense forest, where he took up his abode in a large hollow oak tree, and led a life of extraordinary holiness. Many people from the neighboring places who heard of it, went to visit him; but the Saint, disliking to attract so much attention, left his little dwelling, otherwise so agreeable to him, and sought in another wood, two miles from Ghent, a more quiet abode. The more he endeavored to conceal himself, the more his pious manner of living became known in the surrounding villages, and the great number of those who came to him, bringing him food, or requesting his advice, induced him again to leave his retreat. He returned to Saint Amandus at Ghent, and was ordained by him deacon of Saint Peter’s Church, with which was connected a monastery, filled with fervent religious, under the rule of Saint Benedict. In a sequestered portion of this sacred building, a small room was prepared, where Saint Bavo passed the remainder of his life, under the direction of the first Abbot of the monastery. When he was admonished to relent somewhat in his excessive severity to himself, he used to reply: “All severity, all suffering, is as nothing when compared with the glory that awaits us in heaven.”

He never showed the slightest vexation in crosses or trials, because he believed himself deserving of still more for his past sins. He never complained when he had to suffer innocently, but thanked God for punishing him in this world. Meanwhile, his body became quite emaciated and exhausted by his many and austere penances, and he desired to be relieved from this temporal life and united with his God. His wish was complied with, and heaven sent him a severe sickness, of which, after having received the last Sacraments, he calmly and peacefully died, in the presence of Saint Amandus. His holy body was buried with great solemnity in the Church of Saint Peter, now called Saint Bavo. The many miracles which took place at the shrine of the Saint, have made him still more famous since his death than he was while living on earth.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Bavo complained to no one, when he suffered innocently. He believed that his sins deserved still more. He animated himself in his trials by the thought of the great glory which he had reason to expect in heaven. The same lessons we find in the life of Saint Leodegar. How do you act in your sufferings? You immediately relate to all with whom you associate, what you have to endure. They all must know what has happened to you, in any way, and how you have been unjustly oppressed and persecuted. But, tell me, in what way does this benefit you? In no way at all; but on the contrary, it does you harm; for, you lose the merit you might derive from your sufferings, and perhaps by it you offend the Almighty. If you have your own profit at heart, bear your sufferings silently, and do not complain in future to any one, except perhaps to those who are able to! assist you by word or deed. Commend it all to God and leave it in! His hands. Think, in the hour of trial and tribulation, of the sins you have committed, for which you deserve much greater suffering; think also of the glory which awaits you in heaven, if you patiently bear your cross. Saint Gregory says: “When we think of the sins we have committed, we can bear patiently every wrong done to us, because we know that we have deserved much more.” And again: “If the elect turn the eyes of their mind to contemplate eternal glory, they will see how trifling our suffering is here below, when compared with the unending reward. The most unbearable pain is mitigated by the contemplation of the reward which follows.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Bavo, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 May 2018. Web. 23 September 2018. <>