Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Hugh of Lincoln, Bishop

detail from the painting 'Apparition of Angel Musicians to Saint Hugh of Lincoln'; Vicente Carducho, c.1629; Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

We now add the life of a holy bishop, who not only had a valiant warrior for his father, but who himself also fought as a brave Christian hero, for the honor of God and the liberties of the Church of Christ. This is Saint Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, born in Burgundy, and descended from a noble family. When in his eighth year, he lost his mother; but, that nothing might be neglected in his education, his father gave him in charge of the regular Canons in a monastery not far distant, which he himself not long afterwards entered, in order to pass the remainder of his life’ in the service of God. Hugh remained in this monastery until he had reached his nineteenth year, and was instructed as well in virtue as in the arts and sciences. The Abbot of the monastery, having about that time occasion to visit the Carthusian monks near Grenoble, took Hugh along as his companion. The peace and happiness which reigned in that solitude so charmed the heart of the youth, that he conceived an intense desire to spend his life with those holy men, and, after much solicitation, he received from his Abbot the permission to do so. The evil spirit tormented the young novice for some time most violently with horrible temptations. Hugh took refuge in prayer, fasting, and other penances, to obtain divine aid. The thought of the presence of God, and confidence in the intercession of the divine Mother, made him at length victorious over the devil; for as often as he remembered the presence of the Almighty, and called on the Blessed Virgin, he felt such strength, that he was able to withstand the temptations, and at last entirely overcame them.

Eighteen years he had passed in the Chartreuse, when the fame of his virtues induced the King of England to choose him as prior for the cloister at Witham. He administered his new functions with so much talent and modesty, that the clergy, after the death of the bishop of Lincoln, elected him to that See. The humble servant of God would not consent to occupy so high a place, and represented his incapacity in strong language, begging them with tears to choose another. When, however, on the second election, every voice was for him, his objections were no more regarded, and he was obliged to accept the dignity. As bishop, his virtues shone still more brightly, and he endeavored, with truly apostolic zeal, to labor for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. Soon after he had entered upon his administration, he surrounded himself with holy and learned men, in order to make use of their counsel. He gave no one a parish of whose virtue and knowledge he possessed not sufficient proofs. No recommendation, no protection of the nobility, not even of the king himself, could move him to admit, among the number of his clergy, any one whose conduct had not been exemplary. His own life was so blameless, that he was considered not only the model of prelates, but a living mirror of holiness. The lives of the holy bishops, which he read daily, assisted him greatly in his striving after perfection, as he was desirous to imitate them.

He was extremely compassionate to all who were needy, sick or forsaken. He often knelt down before lepers and kissed their ulcers. He used frequently to wash the feet of thirteen beggars, after which he dismissed them with rich alms. The dead he accompanied to the grave, so as not to omit any work of Christian charity. A scoffer, one day, saw the Saint kiss the feet of a leper, and said: “Saint Martin kissed the feet of a leper only once, and cured him immediately; while this bishop continually kisses them, and yet no one is cured!” Saint Hugh answered: “Saint Martin healed with his kisses the body of the leper; but these lepers cure my soul by my kisses.” In abolishing abuses and protecting the rights of the Church, he manifested great strength of mind, and opposed even the royal commands when they were against the divine laws or the rights of the Church or Clergy. This procured him at one time the displeasure of King Henry II, to such a degree, that orders were issued for his banishment from the country and for the confiscation of all his possessions. But when the unjust sentence was to be executed, the Almighty showed how greatly He is displeased when His anointed are wronged. One of the king’s officers became immediately possessed by the Evil One; and after being tormented for some time, was strangled. Others were overtaken by terrible diseases, and so tormented, that they expired miserably. This deterred others from executing the royal command; and the king durst not proceed further against the Saint whom God defended. What merited for Saint Hugh this wonderful protection of heaven, was his fervor in prayer, and his zeal in all other devout exercises. He had his appointed hours for prayer as well as for work; and at his hours of devotion would not attend to anything else, nor put off his prayers to another time. For this fidelity he was one day visibly rewarded; for, having made an appointment to set out for a certain place, on that day, he was waited upon by the priests, who were to accompany him, earlier than had been agreed upon. As he had not finished his usual devotions, he delayed his departure. The priests who would not wait, went their way and fell into the hands of robbers, who plundered them and dragged them miserably away. The holy man set out after he had said his prayers, and arrived safely at the place of his destination. The sacrifice of Holy Mass he performed with such devotion, that h£ had several times the grace to see the Lord, in the form of a lovely child, in the Host. His faith in the presence of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament was so strong, that when, one day, blood was seen miraculously streaming from a sacred Host on the altar, the Saint having been called to see the miracle, said: “To confirm my faith, I need not see this miracle; for I have never doubted that Christ was substantially present in the Holy Eucharist.” It is also related that he retired at least once every year, into his beloved monastery at Witham, and remained there a few days, in order to renew his spiritual life. During this time he conformed in everything to the regulations of the cloister.

At last, in the year 1200, on the 17th of November, God called His faithful servant, by a happy death, to receive the reward prepared for him in heaven. A severe sickness informed the holy man of his approaching end, and he joyfully hailed the message. After receiving the Holy Sacrament, he foretold the many calamities which would befall the country. The priests who were present recited aloud the office of Compline, and when they came to the words of Saint Simeon: “O Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace,” the holy bishop, who was lying upon sackcloth strewn with ashes, gave his soul to the Almighty, in the 60th year of his age.

Practical Considerations

• The thought of the presence of God was one of the most efficacious means which Saint Hugh employed to conquer the temptations of Satan. Use the same and you will experience its strength. “Thinking of God, we forget vice,” says Saint Chrysostom. “He who thinks of God, is far from all sin,” writes Saint Jerome. It is an article of faith, that God is omniscient, that He sees, hears and knows everything. The Evil Spirit seeks to rob us of this important truth to entice us to sin. If he has once brought us so far that we believe that God sees us not, or knows nothing of us, he has gained everything. Saint Augustine says: “Man falls easily into the most abominable vices, when he imagines that God does not see him or does not care for what is done on earth.” God Himself tells the cause of many crimes of the Israelites in the following words: “The Lord sees us not: the Lord hath forsaken the earth.” (Ezechiel 8) In the book of the Wise Man it is written that the wicked says to himself: “Who sees me? Darkness compasses me about, and no man sees me: whom do I fear? The Most High will not remember my sin.” (Eccl. 23) If then forgetfulness of the presence of God leads to vice, the thought of the ever watchful eyes of the Almighty must have great power in restraining us from sin. Hence I recommend to you, especially when you are tempted, or are in danger of sin, to think: “God sees me, though no man sees me. How dare I sin in His presence? God hears what I say; God sees what I do; God knows what I think; how dare I therefore speak, think, or do anything displeasing to Him?” Think of the words of the Wise Man: “The eyes of the Lord are far brighter then the sun, beholding roundabout all the ways of men, and the bottom of the deep, and looking into the hearts of men, into the most secret parts. (Eccl. 23)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Hugh of Lincoln, Bishop”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 May 2018. Web. 24 September 2018. <>