Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Ulric, Bishop of Augsburg

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detail of a bas-relief of Saint Ulric of Augsburg by Bernardine Weber, 1982; church of Saint Margaretha in Reichertshofen, Germany; photographed on 22 June 2016 by Klaus Schönitzer; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsSaint Ulric, renowned for his virtues and the miracles he wrought, was born towards the close of the ninth century. His parents were Kupald, Count of Kueburg, and Thielburga, daughter of Burkard, Duke of Suabia. When he was only seven years old, his education was entrusted to the religious of the Abbey of Saint Gall, where he progressed in virtue and learning much more than could be expected at his tender age. When he became older, he entertained the fervent desire to enter the religious state, and in order to learn the will of the Almighty, he passed some time in prayer and penance. He also asked the advice of Wigerade, a virgin renowned for her holiness, who, after having, by a three days’ prayer, called on God for light, said to Ulric that he was not destined by heaven to be a monk, but to become a secular priest. Hence he left the monastery and returned to his parents, who sent him to Augsburg to the virtuous bishop Adalberon, who soon recognizing the virtues and talents that were in Ulric, employed him in all the manifold affairs of his sacred functions, and ordained him priest. After some years, with the permission of the bishop, he made a pilgrimage to Rome, during which time Adalberon died. The Pope desired to nominate Ulric to the vacant See; but when the latter heard of it, he was frightened and secretly left. The Holy Father, being informed of this, said: “If Ulric is not pleased to take the See of Augsburg, while it is in a peaceful condition, he will be forced to accept it when it will be in a state of great disturbance and anarchy.” This really happened; for, after the death of Hiltin, who had succeeded Adalberon, Ulric was obliged to yield to the unanimous voice of the clergy and laity. It was a most sad period, for the enemy had devastated the land with fire and sword, the churches were either reduced to ashes or robbed of all their valuables, and the inhabitants were greatly suffering from poverty. The holy bishop was unwearied in his endeavors to restore the churches, to assist the poor and afflicted, and, when he had nothing else to give, he brought consolation and hope to them. For fifty years he governed the See of Augsburg, and words fail to describe the work he performed, the suffering he endured during this time for the glory of the Almighty and the temporal and spiritual welfare of his flock.

The Roman Martyrology praises him especially for these virtues: temperance, liberality, and vigilance. His temperance in eating, drinking and sleeping was so great that more could not have been required of one belonging to an austere religious order. He never partook of meat, although he had it served to strangers and to the poor. In short, he was so frugal that his whole life may be called one continued fast. His bed was straw, and his sleep but a short rest, as he passed the greater portion of the night in devout exercises. He wore no linen, but a garment of wool, and beneath it a rough hair-cloth. His liberality to the poor could not be surpassed; some of them ate daily at his own table. He sometimes waited on them, sometimes shared the meal with them, during which a devout book was read aloud. All that remained of his revenues after he had restored the Church, was devoted to the needy, for whom he procured corn, clothing and houses. He spent nothing to ornament or furnish his own dwelling, in order to be the better able to assist the poor. The best evidence of this is that he ate off wooden dishes, one of which is still shown. Before his death he had all that the house contained brought to him and divided it among the poor. His vigilance over his fold was indefatigable and truly apostolic. He preached, administered the Sacraments, visited the sick, comforted the dying, and yearly visited every parish in his whole diocese on foot, accompanied by only one chaplain. He several times assembled the clergy and consulted with them about abolishing abuses, or about some plan that he had devised for the benefit of the people. In a word, he evinced a father’s solicitude, not only for the spiritual, but also for the temporal prosperity of those entrusted to his care, and regarded neither care nor danger when their welfare was concerned. In 955, the Hungarians pillaged Bavaria, and coming to Augsburg, besieged the city. Ulric exhorted the men to be brave, and the women, children and sick to pray. The whole night he was with them in the church, strengthening the soldiers with the blessed Sacrament. When the morning broke, he mounted a horse, shielded, not in armor, but in a stole, and accompanied the soldiers out of the city to fight against the barbarians. During this time he received from an angel, who visibly appeared to him, a small cross, which he kept in his hand, not fearing the darts or sword-strokes of the enemy; and the sight of which inflamed the courage of his people, who, before long, won a most brilliant victory over the enemy. All this took place on the feast of Saint Lawrence, and the happy result was, under God, ascribed justly to the bishop, as the emperor Otho himself declared when he came to assist the distressed people.

Besides the three above mentioned virtues which the Saint possessed, his life was a shining example of angelic purity, which he kept free from every stain. His devotion to God and the Saints was not less exemplary; he always assisted in choir at the office of the priests. He erected, as well in the city as out of it, many churches, and rebuilt those which had been burned or injured by the enemy. Among the latter was the church of Saint Afra, who was greatly honored by the holy bishop. She appeared to him several times, informed him where her holy body was concealed, and foretold to him several events, among which was the happy result of the above-mentioned battle. On account of these and many other admirable qualities, the people called him only the holy bishop, while God proclaimed the sanctity of His servant by many miracles which were known over the whole Christian world. The oil, which he had consecrated on holy Thursday, healed many sick, and restored the limbs of the lame. He was seen to walk over the river without even wetting his feet. Once, at Easter, when, in presence of a large multitude of people, he celebrated High Mass, a hand, coming from heaven, was seen, which, jointly with Ulric’s hand, blessed the chalice before the consecration.

Having thus faithfully labored for many years in the service of the Most High, the Saint felt that his end was approaching and prepared himself for his Master’s call. On the festival of Saint John, he said Holy Mass for the last time, after which he was brought home, and occupied the remainder of his life in devotional exercises. He humbly requested all those around him to pardon any offence of which he might have been guilty towards them, and gave them many wholesome instructions. When his end was near, he had ashes strewn on the floor in the form of a cross, and sprinkled with holy water; then, requesting to be laid on them, he remained in prayer until, at the dawn of day, while he was chanting the Litany, death closed his eyes in the eighty-third year of his life, A. D. 973.

Practical Considerations

1. Saint Ulric endeavored to learn his vocation by prayer, penance, and by the advice of others. In this the Saint acted very wisely, and ought to be imitated by all who wish to know the will of God. More depends upon it than is generally believed. They do very wrong who blindly choose their path through life without seriously reflecting if God has assigned them to it, or if they may serve heaven by it and gain salvation. By neglecting to do this, many have gone to eternal ruin. Not every vocation suits everybody, although considered in general, salvation may be gained in every honest station of life. Many a one is condemned in the clerical state, who, in the secular would have saved his soul; while many lose salvation in the world, who, in religion would have gained life everlasting. If we desire to know our vocation, we must earnestly pray for light, and further maturely consider our intentions and consult with others. Should you, dear reader, still have to choose your vocation in life, ponder well my words and take the advice of an intelligent confessor. If you have already chosen and entered a certain state, and feel that you have erred in so doing, repent of your mistake and endeavor to atone for it, by leading a strictly Christian life, and by making the most of every opportunity offered you to work out your salvation.

2. Saint Ulric passed the greater part of the night in prayer, and during the day he assisted at all the offices of the church. Have you ever passed, I will not say the greater, but only a small part of the night in prayer? Ah! you are too indolent to pray even in the day. In the day-time, you appear but seldom at Holy Mass, and other devotional exercises; what then can be expected from you at night? You say that sleep and household cares prevent you; and yet I know that you often amuse yourself in idle gossip, gambling to a late hour. I know that during the day you spend many an hour in frivolous visits or in other similar ways. Sleep and household duties do not prevent this. Why do you then make them a pretext when it concerns praying and assisting at the holy sacrifice of the Mass? You evidently do not comprehend the necessity of prayer. At least do not neglect it in the morning and evening. Give to God and to your soul, if possible, half an hour, to assist at holy Mass, and during the day turn your thoughts sometimes towards heaven by pious ejaculations. On Sundays and holy-days, assist more assiduously at the public devotions, and give more time than on other days to prayers and devout reading. “It is impossible,” writes Saint Chrysostom, “to lead a virtuous life when we do not care to pray. We ought to pray without ceasing; but, as other affairs prevent this, we ought to interrupt our occupations by short prayers. We should, at least, before commencing our day’s work, raise our heart and soul in prayer to heaven. A soldier does not enter the battle-field without weapons, and a Christian should not begin anything without prayer.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Ulric, Bishop of Augsburg”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 March 2018. Web. 20 August 2018. <>