Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Frederick

illustration of Saint Frederick, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberThe father of Saint Frederick belonged to one of the most noble families in Suevia, and he took care that his son, who at an early age showed signs of great talent, should have the best education. Having mastered in his youth the lighter walks of literature, Frederick then devoted himself to the more abstruse study of philosophy. The deeper he penetrated into this subject, the more convinced was he that this pursuit was objectless. Concluding, then, that the way to Life Eternal was not to be found amid the mystifying sophisms of the schools, he bade good-bye to country, parents, literature, and philosophy, and betook himself to the hermitage of Saint Meinrad at Einsiedeln. There in solitude, with shaven head, he spent the night in singing the praises of God; he worked at fixed hours by day, and whatever time remained over was given up to spiritual meditation.

Hirsangia was formerly the chief monastery of Wurtemberg, having been founded A.D. 645 by Helisina, Evvardus, and Leopold from Calva. In the troubled times that followed the incursions of the barbarians into Germany, it had been destroyed; but it was restored A.D. 830, when a colony of fifteen monks was brought thither from Fulda by Notengus, the Bishop of Vercelli, and Erlefredus, Count of Calva. Again burnt to the ground by the Huns, Adalbertus, a descendant of Erlefredus, thought it due to his pious ancestor to rebuild it with all its old magnificence.

As the hermitage of Saint Meinrad at Einsiedeln was at this time most famous for the strict observance of Rule, Adalbert sent thither for an Abbot and Monks for Hirsangia. It was easy to guess who would be placed in charge of the twelve Monks selected for the new monastery; for none equalled Frederick in austerity and holiness. Accordingly he took charge of Hirsangia A.D. 1065, and immediately set himself to carry out the practices of the Order with the utmost strictness. Among the numbers who joined the new monastery, there were many who murmured against the constant watchings, the long fasts, and the perpetual silence. These formed a plot against the Superior, and spread the report that he, the sworn enemy and torturer of the flesh, had been guilty of immorality. This report reached the ears of Adalbert; and he, believing it – without any proof whatever – deposed the Abbot and flung him into prison, where in chains for many months he expiated an offence which he had never committed. With wonderful patience our Saint, now degraded, bore all the taunts flung at him by his enemies. Those of his brethren who knew how incapable Frederick was of entertaining even an impure thought venerated him as a second Job.

The Bishop of Laurissa, who had frequent opportunities at Hirsangia of admiring the resignation with which Frederick silently bore this unjust treatment, obtained the new Abbot’s permission to transfer him to Saint Michael’s, at Ebernisbergen; and there he spent the remainder of his life in the greatest sanctity.

Those whose duty it was to prepare his body for burial found that he wore a chain of barbed iron, which had eaten into the flesh, and that his back and loins were covered with scars from the lash. After his remains had been placed in the tomb, there flared round it lighted torches, which had been put there by no mortal hand; the sweetest perfume filled the church; the sickly had their health restored; and the name of Frederick was henceforth included among the Saints.

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