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

detail of an antique holy card of Saint HomobonusArticle

A grand example of virtue is presented to us by the Catholic Church in Saint Homobonus, who as a layman and a merchant arrived at great Holiness. The famous city of Cremona, in Lombardy, was his native place. His parents were not rich in worldly goods, but very pious. They gave their son the name of Homobonus, that is, “a good man;” and this name was a presage of the kindness and charity which were to mark his life. His parents gave him an excellent education, and the benefits he derived from it extended over his whole life. As soon as Homobonus was beyond the years of childhood, his father, who was a merchant, took him into business. Homobonus, enlightened by God, recognized the manifold dangers of sin into which he would be thrown by commerce, and was therefore very guarded in all his actions. Every morning, he recited his prayers and assisted at holy Mass; for he used to say: “One must first seek the kingdom of God. The success of all affairs depends only on God.” He was very careful not to become guilty of the least fraud, or even to take a lawful advantage, either in buying or in selling. He would not take a penny unjustly. He never asked more for his goods than the legitimate price. An oath or a lie, so common among merchants, was never on his lips. He was extremely conscientious in paying his debts, in order not to make others suffer by delay. Besides this, his manners were so kind, his words so modest, that he was beloved by every one; and therefore he had more customers and a greater income then any other merchant. The Sundays and Holy-days he employed only to the honor of God and the salvation of his soul. The greater part of these days he spent in the church, at prayer, listening to the word of God, and receiving the holy Sacraments ,- while his only pleasure at home was the reading of a devout book. Towards his parents he manifested, both as child and man, a reverential love and a perfect obedience. Hence, when they proposed to him that he should marry, he consented to their wishes, took in marriage the maiden whom his parents had selected for him and lived with her in Christian love and fidelity. He continued in business after the death of his parents, not, however, for the purpose of gaining earthly wealth for his own benefit, but to secure eternal possessions, by giving his temporal gain to the poor. He was not only kind to the poor, but liberal, so that he was called “The father of the poor.” No one left him without receiving alms. For those who were ashamed to beg, he carried his gifts to their houses, comforted them and encouraged them to bear their trials patiently. His wife sometimes seemed to think that his liberality went too far, and feared lest, if he continued, she herself might, one day, come to want. Hence she counselled him to be more economical and not to draw every beggar of the city to his house.” When she saw that all her words had no effect, she began to complain and murmur, and at last, even broke out into invectives and curses. Homobonus met her with gentleness, and said: “Do you then suppose that our temporal affairs will suffer, when we are compassionate and charitable to the poor? The word of God teaches us quite differently; Christ Himself has said: Give, and you shall receive.” The woman, however, would not believe this until she had had a proof of it. A famine had come upon the city, and one day, so great a number of poor came to the house of Homobonus, that all the bread he had stored up hardly sufficed to satisfy them. The wife of the charitable man was not at home when this happened; but when she returned and went to fetch some bread for the table, she found the same number of loaves she had left there; and on cutting one of them, she perceived that it was whiter and better then she had ever seen. Astonished at this, she asked the servant, who assured her that Homobonus had given all the bread to the poor; whence she understood that the Almighty had wrought a miracle to reward the charity of her husband and to reprove her own selfishness. Homobonus then bade her not to think that she would be impoverished by giving to the poor, and in future, to show herself more compassionate. At another time a similar miracle took place. The Saint had a small country-seat, the revenue of which he devoted entirely to the support of the helpless. One day, when he was taking out some wine to the laborers in this villa, he met some beggars, who asked him to give them a drink to appease their thirst. The kind-hearted man gave them the pitchers, bidding them take a good drink. The beggars needed no second invitation, but took the pitchers and left not a drop in them. The Saint, fearing that the laborers would become impatient at his long delay, if he returned home to fill his pitchers again, went, full of trust in God, to a neighboring well, filled the pitchers with water, blessed it and took it to the laborers. One after another partook of it, and all returned him thanks for having brought them such excellent wine. The Saint thought at first that they were not in earnest: but having tasted it, he found that it was truly wine. Silently thanking God, he resolved not to tell any one of the miracle; but one of the laborers had seen his master give the wine to the beggars, and fill the pitchers at the well. The miracle thus soon became known, and raised the holy man still more in the estimation of every one. He used the great influence which he possessed for the salvation of many souls, and by his devout discourses he brought many heretics to the true faith and many sinners to a better life. We have already related that he employed all the time that he could spare from business in prayer and devout reading. Even a portion of the night he devoted to these sacred exercises; for he rose in the middle of the night and assisted at matins in the neighboring Church of Saint Aegidius; where he remained until the first Mass. Although orders had been given that the church should be opened for Homobonus, he was several times found praying before the altar or the Crucifix before the doors were yet opened. The Angels had done him the service to admit him into the house of the Lord.

At length, it pleased God to call His faithful servant from the place where he had passed so many hours in holy contemplation, to receive his eternal reward. One night, in 1197 he had, according to his custom, assisted at matins and remained kneeling before the Crucifix until the morning Mass commenced. At the “Gloria in Excelsis,” he stretched out both arms and then laying them in the form of a cross upon his breast, he expired, without having been sick or having shown any sign of agony. No sooner was he found dead in this position, than every one came running towards him, venerating him as a Saint. The holy body was buried in the same church, and God made his shrine celebrated by many miracles. The number of these was so great, that, in the following year, the Pope did not hesitate to place Homobonus among the Saints. In the year 1357, his holy body was exhumed and transported, with solemn ceremonies to the Cathedral.

Practical Considerations

• All those who are merchants, or in other similar professions, should learn of Saint Homobonus how to conduct themselves in the station to which they belong, if they desire to save their souls. We ought always to begin the day with fervent prayer; assist daily, if possible, and with great devotion, at Holy Mass; be careful to avoid deceit of every sort, as for instance, in weight or measure, by adulteration of the wares, or by retaining any portion of them for our own profit We ought not to seek gain by unjust means; not ask more than is just for our goods or our work, and avoid lying, cursing, and other vices. We ought not to become addicted to slothfulness, gaming or drinking, but work earnestly, carefully and patiently. The Sundays and holidays we should pass as God and the Holy Church require of us; receive the Holy Sacraments frequently and with devotion; listen to sermons and instructions, and succor our neighbor with alms. By observing all these points, we may hope to gain everlasting life, in whatever station of life it may have pleased God to place us on earth.

In regard to alms-giving, all may learn from the life of Saint Homobonus, that it does not impoverish us, but increases our temporal goods. Saint Cyprian says: “If you fear to lose by giving alms, let me advise you to banish all such apprehension. I can assure you of quite the contrary.” The Holy Ghost says: “Whoever gives to the poor shall never want.” (Proverbs 28)

• Saint Homobonus died suddenly, without having been sick, and without having received the Holy Sacraments: but his death was nevertheless happy, as he was prepared for it by a holy life. To die suddenly, without receiving the holy Sacraments, is not in itself an unhappy death, just as to die after receiving the Holy Sacraments, is not always a happy death. Many have a long sickness before their end, and therefore have time enough to prepare themselves and to receive the Sacraments; and yet they may go to eternal destruction, because they do not receive them worthily, or become guilty of sin after having received them. Those who die suddenly, if they are in the grace of God die happily, even if they do not receive the Sacraments. You do well to pray daily, with the Church, to be delivered from a sudden death. But as you do not know the decrees of the Almighty, endeavor to maintain yourself continually in the grace of God. Retain nothing on your conscience which may give you fear in your last hour. Guard yourself against sin, which alone can make your death unhappy. And if, through weakness or wickedness you have been guilty of great sin, endeavor immediately to atone for it that you may again be admitted to the friendship of the Almighty, and not be taken away in your sin by a sudden death. The delay of penance, under the pretext that there is yet time enough, that God will receive you graciously, even at the last, and that He has promised to pardon sinners at whatever hour they return to Him, has made many miserable for all eternity. “It is true that God has promised to forgive you if you repent and do penance; but He has not promised you tomorrow if you delay your repentance. You are right in saying: If I do penance, God will pardon. I cannot deny that the Almighty has promised pardon to all repentant sinners, but in the book of the Prophet wherein you read that God promises pardon to the repentant sinner, you will not find that He promises long life/’ Thus writes Saint Augustine. Therefore, act according to my instructions. Do penance immediately after committing sin; endeavor to remain in the grace of God, and then leave to Him the hour and the manner of your death. He will certainly allow nothing to happen to you which is not for the welfare of you immortal soul.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Homobonus, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 May 2018. Web. 14 November 2018. <>