Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Elzear, Count and Confessor

Saint ElzearArticle

Saint Elzear, whose name is also recorded today in the Roman Martyrology, was born of a noble -and illustrious family. His mother, a matron highly esteemed on account of her virtues, consecrated him to God soon after his birth. She humbly begged the Almighty that if He foresaw that her child would ever offend Him by a mortal sin, He would take it to Himself after it had received baptism. She would much rather lose her child while it was still innocent, than have it live even one moment in sin. We can not doubt that this consecration, made with a sincere heart, was pleasing to the Most High; for He bestowed upon Elzear the grace to preserve his innocence unspotted until his death. Compassion towards the poor seemed to have been born with him, as, from childhood, he allowed no one to leave his door without alms. He searched in the house for everything which he might give to the poor, and divided it among them most kindly. He was educated in the monastery of Saint Victor at Marseilles, and was unwearied both in gaining knowledge and in practising all Christian virtues; he was therefore greatly beloved and esteemed by all.

By command of King Charles II, he was, when still very young, united to a princess named Delphine, who was as virtuous as himself. After the marriage ceremony, Delphine informed Elzear that she had been forced to this marriage, but was determined to preserve her virginity, if he would give his permission.

Elzear admired Delphine’s virtue, and consented to her pious resolution; and soon after, he also made a vow of perpetual chastity. Thus both lived in celibacy until their end. The means they made use of to persevere in this unusual course were prayer, frequent partaking of the Holy Sacrament, continual mortification of their senses, and a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin. They thus obtained not only the grace to remain free from all temptations against purity, but were, by their constant companionship, still more animated to esteem chastity.

When Saint Elzear had reached his twentieth year, he requested of his grandfather, with whom he had resided, the permission to retire with his spouse to a castle which belonged to her. Here he arranged his household in such a manner, that it resembled a monastery rather than the residence of a Count. For his servants and the other occupants of his house, he wrote the following memorable rules.

I. To hear Holy Mass daily.

II. To go to confession every week, and once a month to Holy Communion.

III. To work diligently.

IV. To abstain from blasphemy, cursing, and licentious conversation.

V. To lead a pure life.

VI. To avoid playing at dice and other games of chance.

VII. To maintain peace and harmony among themselves, and after a quarrel, to become reconciled before the day had closed.

VIII. To assemble together daily for spiritual reading. These and several similar rules he made for his household, designating, also, certain punishments for the transgressors. And that all might the more easily be led to observe them, he went before them by his own example.

His love for the poor, which, as remarked above, he had already manifested In his most tender years, increased as he grew older. He daily washed the feet of ten poor persons, even lepers, whom he also fed and assisted with alms. One day, he visited a neighboring hospital where he found six lepers, whose appearance alone struck the beholder with horror. Elzear, going up to them, comforted them, and not only made them rich gifts, but also embraced them most tenderly. In consideration of this heroic self-abnegation of the Count, God freed them all from their leprosy. At the time of a great dearth and famine, Elzear emptied all his barns in charity to the poor. Nor was he less generous in the forgiveness of injuries. Once, when business called him away, some of his subjects revolted, and naturally feared that when he returned, they would be punished. But the Count pardoning them, relieved them of their fear, and by this gracious act, quite won their hearts. At another time, however, he was severely just, as he would not leave evil deeds unpunished any more than good deeds unrecompensed. King Robert requested him to discharge the functions of President of the Council at Naples, until he should return from a voyage to Provence. Elzear accepted the office and had ample opportunity to show his love of justice. No respect of persons, no offer of presents, could turn him from what he considered just and right. Some of his expressions with regard to bribes deserve to be remembered. Some one advised him to accept certain gifts, saying that he could do so with an easy conscience: “It is true,” replied the Count; “I might accept these gifts with an easy conscience; but from what we may accept rightfully, we come easily to what we may not accept rightfully. We begin by taking the fruit, then we take the tree, and finally the garden in which the tree grows.”

Innocent and holy as was the life of Saint Elzear, still God visited him with crosses and persecutions. He was, however, never seen despondent, disturbed or discontented. In his sorrows he fled to the holy wounds of Christ, and to the protection of the divine mother, and always found consolation and strength.

At length when some business had taken him to Paris, he became sick, and although no physician pronounced his illness serious, he called for a priest, made a general confession and received Holy Communion. During his sickness he had the history of the Passion of Christ read to him every day. He asked for the Holy Viaticum when he was still in the possession of all his faculties. When the priest came to the words: “Through thy Cross and Passion; O Lord, deliver us!” the holy man distinctly said: “This is my hope; in this will I die.” Before his end he had yet to sustain a severe combat which was perceptible in his countenance. After some time, he exclaimed: “Great is the power of the spirits of hell: but the might and merits of Jesus Christ have annihilated them.” Later, he said: “I have conquered; God be praised; I have entirely conquered!” His whole face then became illuminated; a heavenly brightness seemed to emanate from it, until his pure, virtuous soul was in the presence of his Creator. His death took place in 1323.

Practical Considerations

Saint Elzear was of noble birth, and rich in temporal goods, yet he lived not only a Christian, but a holy life. Nobility and riches do not in themselves prevent us from gaining salvation. Virtue and piety may be very well united with nobility of birth and riches. It depends only on our using them rightly, as the holy Count Elzear did. But if they are used otherwise, as for instance, nobility to engender pride, to despise and oppress others; or riches to indulge in immoderate luxury, or other sins and vices; in such cases, both serve to lead men to perdition. Saint Elzear showed that they might be well used to the honor of God and the salvation of souls. On the day of judgment, the life of this saint will confound all those nobles of this world who imagine that they cannot live piously and become holy in their station, as if devotional exercises were not suitable to their rank in life, but good only for common people, for religious in a convent, or for hermits in a desert. How can they justify themselves with the excuses they now make, that their affairs prevented them from praying, or that burdened with so many cares, they could not live piously? Saint Elzear also had great cares, and the government of his subjects surely gave him great work to do; yet he found time to serve God; why then should others of the same rank be unable to do the same? They might also learn from the example of the holy Count how to regulate their household in a Christian manner, and how to guide those under them in the path of duty and righteousness. They might further learn how careful they ought to be in regard to accepting presents when they have to administer justice. All Christians will learn from this holy Count not to trust too much to themselves, when they read how severely this saint was tempted on his death-bed. All should learn from him where to seek a refuge in temptation, and .how to combat, so that they also may exclaim in their last hour: “I have conquered!” For only to those that conquer has heaven been promised. “To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me on my throne,” says the Almighty. (Apocalypse 3)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Elzear, Count and Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 May 2018. Web. 20 November 2018. <>