Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Attala, Abbot

illustration of Saint Attala, Abbot, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberSaint Attala, who was born in Burgundy, received his education first at the hands of Bishop Arigius. When he had mastered all the usual elementary subjects, he applied himself earnestly to the study of rhetoric. By the favour of Heaven, however, the thought struck him that all the glory to be gained from eloquence was as nothing in comparison with his salvation. So he bade farewell to oratory, and betook himself to the Monastery of Luxeuil, then strictly governed, according to the laws of Saint Benedict, by Saint Columban. This great Saint immediately discerned the excellence of the youth’s disposition, the rare candour and simplicity of character which shone in his countenance. Enrolled among the novices, Attala made such progress in virtues and learning, that Columban employed his services in tasks requiring special ability, and always kept him by his side. Hence it was that when Columban was driven from Luxeuil by the furious attacks of Brunechild, Attala was chosen as one of the companions of his exile. After long wanderings they found a resting-place in Lombardy by the banks of the River Bobio, where King Agilulph allowed them to erect a monastery. When Columban, worn-out by old age, summoned his brethren to his death-bed to receive his last instructions, he recommended Attala to them as his successor.

The new Abbot carefully carried out the rigorous system of his predecessor. Any apathy or laxity was punished with severity. Some of the monks murmured, and when the Abbot insisted on obedience, he spoke to deaf ears. To prevent their corrupting the rest of the community, he ordered the rebellious monks to leave the monastery. They, to account for their expulsion, described the Abbot as harsh and cruel; his rule was so inhuman that it had become intolerable. This calumny was soon punished by the Divine vengeance. Of the guilty slanderers, one was strangled, another shipwrecked, a third beheaded. The rest were so struck with terror, that they returned to Bobio, where, after making dutiful submission, the Abbot received them with open arms, and thenceforward had in them the most obedient of his subjects.

The favour of Heaven was shown to Saint Attala by many miracles. Once when an overflow of the river threatened to sweep away the mill which Columban had built on piles close to the bank, the monks rushed for help to Attala. He, having confidence in the protection of God, gave his staff to one of his brethren, bidding him make the sign of the Cross with it on the bank, and then fixing it there, to command the waters to rise no further. The monk did so, and the river gradually sank back to its usual channel.

On another occasion, business brought Attala to Milan. There one of his friends met him, and invited him to his home. As they were entering the house, they found the whole household plunged in grief, and the lady of the house frantically wailing, because her son had been seized with a sudden illness, and lay at the point of death. She besought the Saint to save her child. Attala, who had always shrunk from the notoriety caused by the miracles he had performed, told the parents to go with all their servants to the church, and there to offer up prayers for the recovery of the boy. In the meantime, he said, his prayers by the bedside would not be wanting. They readily obeyed; and, the house being now clear, the Saint took the hand of the dying boy, made the sign of the Cross on his forehead, and bade him be restored to sound health. When the boy recovered, the Saint fled, so anxious was he to escape the fame of his extraordinary miracles.

Thus distinguished for his miracles and the sanctity of his life, Attala grew old. To the very end he practised the severest mortifications, and before his death, which occurred A.D. 626, he was allowed a glimpse of Heaven, where he was soon to enjoy his everlasting reward.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.