Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Goar, Priest and Hermit


detail of a stained glass window of Saint Goar of Acquitaine; c.1450, artist unknown; Collegiate Church of Saint Goar am Rhein, Germany; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThe holy priest and hermit Goar was born in Aquitain and was the descendant of an illustrious family. His tender childhood already bore marks of the great sanctity to which he attained in after life. He was never playful like other children, but always retiring and quiet in all his ways, and manifested early a great love of purity and a horror of all sin. No indelicate word was ever heard from his lips, and he could not endure it in others. Aided by fervent prayers, many penances, and frequent partaking of the holy communion, he preserved his purity unstained. After growing up and being instructed in the requisite knowledge, he was ordained Priest. His holy conduct and zealous preaching brought many heathens to the knowledge of the true God, many sinners to repentance, and strengthened many pious people to persevere in the right way. As this subjected him to great praise, and brought him so many visits that he could not give as much time as he desired to prayers, he resolved to leave his home, and in solitude to serve the Lord with all the powers of his soul. He delayed not to carry his resolution into effect, secretly left his home, and having arrived in the territory of Triers, he, with the permission of the bishop, built a little church at Upper- Wessel, and there he daily said Mass. In this solitude he lived a holy life, practicing all the virtues of his station. To the heathens, who were still in those parts, he preached the Gospel with great success, exhorted others to repentance, to avoid sin, and to do good works. God blessed the holy endeavors of His servant with many remarkable conversions and miracles, the fame of which soon spread about, drawing many strangers to the dwelling of the Saint. The pious priest availed himself of this opportunity to further their spiritual welfare. He received all most kindly, and cheerfully extended hospitality to them in order to prevent them by devout discourses from sin and lead them to God. These pious endeavors were rewarded with many happy results. A large number ot people were converted. But, notwithstanding this, the Almighty permitted the holy man to be accused by some wicked persons of hypocrisy, pride and other vices. Among these were two servants of the bishop of Triers, who, after having visited Saint Goar and seen his way of living, said unhesitatingly to the bishop that Goar was a hypocrite, who assumed holiness only to deceive the people, that he led not the life of a hermit, but was intemperate and made merry with worldly people.

The miracles wrought by him, they said, were nothing but a deception of Satan. The bishop commanded the hypocrite to be brought before him, that he might call him to account and punish him accordingly. The servants went to the Saint and informed him of the bishop’s command. Goar received them kindly, entertained them hospitably, and promised to return with them on the following day. Day-break had hardly lit up the cross of his little church, when the holy man, according to custom, said Mass, having ordered breakfast for the two servants of the bishop and for a stranger who had just arrived. The servants would not touch the food, and reproached the Saint, that he; already so early in the morning, thought of eating and drinking. But, notwithstanding this, they requested him to give them some food for their journey. The holy man told them that Christianity enjoined hospitality, and, having given them as much food as they desired for the journey, he went away with them. Upon the way, he occupied himself in singing Psalms. At midday, the servants were faint from hunger and thirst, and unable to proceed on their journey, they wished to refresh themselves with the food which the holy man had given them, and they looked about for some water wherewith to quench their thirst. But they found neither food nor water: God had taken from them what they had before refused to partake of, probably to punish them for the wickedness with which they had judged the holy priest. They acknowledged their fault, and begged the Saint’s pardon, who after a short prayer procured them, by a miracle, food and drink. Recognizing the holiness of him whom they had denounced as a hypocrite and a glutton, they changed their opinion of him, and arriving at the bishop’s palace, told what had occurred and added much in the Saint’s praise. The bishop, however, was not so willing to alter the opinion he had already formed, but accused him, in the presence of a great many priests, of several vices, particularly of hypocrisy and intemperance.

The Saint defended his innocence with great sweetness and tranquility, but found no willing ear in the bishop. Meanwhile an illegitimate child was brought in, which had just been found at the place where such children were deposited. The bishop said to the assemblage: “We shall now see if this hermit is a true servant of God, or only a deceiver.” He then commanded the accused to reveal the name of the parents of the child, or induce the latter to name them. The holy man refused as long as possible to comply with this request, and gave reasons which ought to have induced the bishop to let the matter rest; but, as he insisted upon it, the Saint adjured the child in the name of the Holy Trinity, to reveal the names of its parents. The child, which was only three days old, immediately opened its mouth, and said, quite distinctly; “Rusticus is my father, and Flavia, my mother.” The bishop was thunderstruck at hearing his own name, and falling at the feet of Saint Goar, begged him to forgive the rash judgment he had formed of him. The holy man was deeply grieved that this crime was thus made public, and took upon himself to make reparation for it by a penance of seven years.

This remarkable event soon spread abroad, and when it had come to the ears of King Siegbert, the Saint was called to inform the King of the whole proceedings. The holy man, however, refused to appear. The King insisted, saying that he was already acquainted with the principal facts, and having related them, desired to know if all had happened in that manner. The Saint replied: “As your majesty has related all, it would be superfluous to add anything.” This answer pleased the King greatly, who therefore desired to bestow on Saint Goar the See of Triers. The Saint earnestly refused, but as the King, the nobility, and the people urged him to accept it, he requested to have a few days, to take counsel with God. When this had been granted, he returned to his dwelling, and prayed, with tearful eyes, that God would avert what seemed to be in store for him.

God heard his prayer, and sent him a dangerous fever, which kept him for seven years in his cell, not allowing him to set foot out of doors. These seven years of suffering he offered according to his promise to God, for the bishop, who then also led a penitential life. Hardly had the Saint recovered from his illness, when the King again requested him to accept” the government of the See. But the Saint answered that they would not be able to remove him out of his cell, until they carried away his body in a coffin. These words proved true, for he was attacked by another disease which lasted four years, and which only terminated at his death, in the year of our Lord 575.

The many miracles wrought on the tomb of the Saint showed how much the Almighty was pleased with His servant, while they at the same time made the place, where his holy relics rested, so famous, that a considerable town grew out of it which still at this day bears the name of “Saint Goar.”

Practical Considerations

1. Read once more the answer which Saint Goar gave to the King who desired to know what had happened. Read it, and learn how prudently we ought to speak of others. To inform those who have authority to prevent or punish evil, or who have the power to bring the perpetrators to the knowledge of their vices, is permitted, if it is done with a good intention. Not to inform these is sometimes a mortal sin. But when the evil is still unknown, and I inform those whom it does not concern and who have not the power to prevent, punish, or in any manner do what may redress the mischief done, then my telling this evil is nothing but slander; hence a sin, and often a mortal one. If the crimes are public, then to speak of them to others is not slander, but is often neither kind nor charitable. This ought to be well considered by those who think that it is not slander, and hence no sin, when they reveal to others the faults or crimes of their neighbors, which may be true, but still are unknown. Examine your conscience to learn if you are guilty of this, and in future be more careful.

2. Saint Goar performed a seven years’ penance for the sins of others, and offered for the expiation of them his own sufferings. What penance do you perform for your own sins? You have the best opportunity to do penance when you are sick, or have other trials. Regard it as punishment for your iniquities, as a divine admonition. Repent of your sins and confess them, and bear the pains of your sickness or your trials with patience, in the spirit of penance, and offer all to God as an atonement for your sins, at the same time making the resolution, not to offend the Almighty again. If you do this, you will perform a noble penance which will purify you from all stains of sin. The Venerable Bede writes: “Sickness, endured with patience, serves instead of purgatory to cleanse men from their sins.” But if you are not converted in your sickness, if you suffer murmuringly and impatiently, what will then happen to you? Saint Gregory the Great, answers this question in the following words: “Present suffering, when it converts men, atones for past sin: but not producing this effect, it will be the beginning of future punishment. Hence, let us be careful not to pass from temporal into eternal pain.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Goar, Priest and Hermit”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 March 2018. Web. 24 March 2018. <>