Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Godfried, Bishop of Amiens

Saint Godfrey of AmiensArticle

The parents of Saint Godfried lived for many years a very sad life, because they had not a child to inherit their noble name and great riches. At length, after long prayers, God gave them a son, whom they called Godfried. When he was five years old, they sent their only and beloved child into a monastery, that he might be instructed and piously reared by a most learned and virtuous abbot. It was soon perceptible that the Almighty watched over the little Godfried, and had chosen him for the religious state. A crane one day gave him so violent a blow between the eyes, that he was in danger of losing his sight, perhaps his life. The boy, calling on the name of Jesus, made the sign of the cross over the wound, and immediately all danger vanished, the wound was healed, and nothing remained but a small scar as a sign of the miracle which had taken place. This was justly looked upon as a manifestation of divine protection which watched over Godfried. A presage of his vocation to the religious state was seen in the fact that he endeavored to model his life, in his young years, after the example of the clergy. He was zealous in his prayers, industrious in his studies, and always ready for any kind of labor. The older he grew, the greater became his zeal in the discharge of all his duties, in which he took so much delight, that he no longer thought of returning to his home, but determined, in his own mind, to serve God in the religious state. As soon, therefore, as he arrived at the requisite age, he began his novitiate, and finished it by solemnly pronouncing the sacred vows. His superiors charged him with the duty of attending to the sick, which he fulfilled with the greatest joy, as a welcome opportunity to show his love to God and men. Words fail to describe how kind he was to the sick and how unweariedly he served them day and night. His care however, was not confined to their bodies, but extended also to their souls, as he proved by most zealously exhorting them, encouraging them to patience, reading to them from devout books, or praying with them. If he saw that their illness was dangerous, he persuaded them to receive the holy Sacraments, and to prepare themselves in time for a happy death. When he had attained his twenty-fifth year, he was ordained priest, and as he had gained a great reputation on account of his virtue, wisdom and talents, he received from the Archbishop of Rheims the order to take on himself the administration of a half-ruined abbey, and restore it to its former prosperity. Difficult as was this undertaking, yet the untiring energy of the holy Abbot succeeded. He was an example to all his religious, exhorted them most kindly and earnestly, and before long, had all his affairs in such excellent order, that his abbey became celebrated far and near. Soon after, when the bishop of Amiens died, or as others say, had resigned his See, the clergy and the people resolved to elect Godfried as his successor. The election was unanimous; but the humble servant of God would not accept the dignity, until the papal Nuncio had most earnestly admonished him to obey the call of Heaven.

Godfried, as bishop, changed not in the least his former austere and holy conduct, but used his dignity as an opportunity to labor still more for the honor of God, the benefit of the church and the comfort of the poor. To the last, his episcopal palace was always open. He received them most kindly, served them personally at table, washed their feet, and allowed none to go away without alms. One day, a leper came to him at table and asked for some food. The Saint gave him a fish which was on the table. His steward murmured at this: but the bishop said: “Would it be right that I should have superfluity on my table, whilst Christ is suffering hunger in His poor?” At another time he met a half-naked beggar, and having no money with him he took off his coat and gave it. The vices and abuses, which were prevalent in the city, he sought to eradicate by continual preaching, admonition and exhortation, and, finally, also by earnest menaces, without allowing himself to be checked by the power of the great. But this apostolic zeal offended some wicked men, whom he had reproved, and who to revenge themselves, determined to take his life. They sent him, under a pretense of politeness and friendship, some poisoned wine. But God revealed the deceit to His faithful servant, and thus saved him from death. When, at last, the holy bishop perceived that, with all his endeavors, he could do but little good, he wished to divest himself of his functions, rather than longer administer them with such doubtful success. Hence, he secretly went into the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse, to attend to his own salvation during the years that were still left to him. He wrote, however, to the bishops assembled in Council at Beauvais, humbly requesting them to give the church at Amiens to some one else. The Council did not accept his resignation, but sent two deputies to take him back to his forsaken flock, who received him with great rejoicing. Godfried began again to punish all vices with great severity and admonish all to alter their conduct, but with no greater success than before. Hence with prophetic spirit he denounced to the impenitent city, the divine punishment which was hanging over it. His words soon became true; for, fire fell on Amiens, as, in ancient times, it had fallen upon Sodom, and consumed the entire city, except the church, the palace of the bishop and a few houses. This changed the conduct of those who survived the catastrophe, but only fora short time. Deeply grieved the Bishop set out for Rheims, but was overtaken by sickness on the way. Odo, the Abbot of Saint Crispin, brought nim to his monastery, where, after receiving the Sacraments, the holy bishop raised his eyes towards heaven, and gave his soul to God. His purity and innocence, he carried with him inviolate to the grave, in 1118.

Practical Considerations

• Did you observe how Saint Godfried attended not only to the body, but also to the souls of the sick? To nurse the sick is a noble work of charity, and if you have an opportunity to do it, do not neglect it, because you can gain great merits. Your charity, however, must not be only for the body, but also, or rather, especially for the soul. Hence encourage them to bear their suffering patiently; read to them from some devout book; pray with them, and exhort them to draw spiritual benefit from their sickness. Should you observe that the sickness is mortal, inform the patient of it in a prudent manner, or speak to a priest that he may make it known, and prepare the sick person for the long eternity awaiting him. We do very wrong in not announcing in time to the sick the danger in which they are, or deceiving them with false hopes. For want of this timely notice and exhortation, many souls have gone to destruction. Had they been admonished in time, this would not have happened. How great then is the guilt of those who have neglected this! And why did they neglect it? Out of kindness, they say; for they did not wish to frighten the sick by announcing that death was near. Oh, how false, how cruel a charity! True charity seeks the welfare of its neighbor: but is this done by not informing him of his danger, and thus letting him die without due preparation? Should the patient be really somewhat startled, when he becomes acquainted with the true state of his health, what harm is done? It is better to be frightened and prepare for a happy death, than to live without any fear and die unprepared. Take heed that you be not the cause of the eternal damnation of a sick person. When you are sick yourself, beg to be plainly told of your danger, and do all that is necessary for a happy death, before it is too late.

• When Saint Godfried saw that after all his admonitions, the inhabitants of the city reformed not their conduct, he threatened them with divine punishment, which soon after befell them. The Almighty does not always punish sinners immediately after they have become guilty of evil deeds; not because He does not see their wickedness, or because He esteems it as trifling; but because He is long-suffering and merciful, and gives them time to repent and do penance If they continue in their godless course, He admonishes and menaces them by the sermons they hear at church, by their confessors, and by their own conscience. He threatens them with a sudden death, with the last judgment, with hell; not as if He had resolved to take them away by a sudden death, but that He may not be forced to cast them into hell. He seeks by threats to bring them to repentance, that they may not be lost for ever. This is taught by Saint Chrysostom when he says: “God threatens us with hell, that he may not be forced to cast us into its flames.” And Saint Augustine writes: “If He wished to condemn us, He would be silent. No one that wishes to beat another, first cries to him: Take care!” And again he says: “If our Lord desired to punish us, He would not exhort us so often; against His will does He punish us; for, long before He has shown us how we may escape punishment; for whoever desires to beat you does not call to you: Take care and save yourself!” In this, God manifests a special mercy; for. He exhorts sinners and menaces them with His wrath. But when the sinner heeds neither exhortations nor menaces, but, continuing in his evil ways, does no true penance; then the Almighty suddenly overtakes him, and punishes the more severely as He has waited longer. Listen to the words of Saint Augustine: “It is a manifestation of God’s patience, when He does not immediately punish the sinner; but it is not a sign of negligence, nor of His esteeming our wickedness as trifling. He has not lost His might, but restrains it, that we may do penance. Hence it is to be feared, that the longer He waits for our reformation, the more severely will He punish us if we do not repent.” Saint Chrysostom says the same when he writes: “Those who sin much, have more reason to fear when they are not punished; for, their punishment will be greater, the longer God in His mercy delays it!” What then is to be done? Let him who has sinned, not abuse, to his greater punishment, the long-suffering mercy of the Almighty, but be converted and do penance.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Godfried, Bishop of Amiens”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 May 2018. Web. 20 September 2018. <>