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

illustration of Saint Humbert, Abbot, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberPhilperic was the ruler of France at the time Saint Humbert was born. He was of illustrious parentage, his father being named Eurardus and his mother Popita. They had reason to congratulate themselves on the obedience, the absence of boyish waywardness, and the piety their son showed from his earliest years. The boy devoted himself with the greatest industry to his studies, and, when he had become sufficiently versed in the liberal arts, he embraced the monastic state. The young monk soon advanced to such a degree of sanctity that even old Religious modelled their lives on his.

On the death of his parents Humbert succeeded to an ample patrimony; it was while he was, with the permission of his Superior, revisiting his old home, to complete the arrangements for the transfer of this property to his monastery, that Humbert met Amandus, Bishop of Maestricht. This great prelate was travelling with one companion to Rome. At his request Humbert joined them. A horse with a pack-saddle carried their books and necessary baggage; they themselves proceeded on foot, staff in hand.

It chanced, as they were resting near a wood, that a bear fell on and devoured their horse, which had strayed into the forest. When they were about to resume their journey, the horse could nowhere be seen. Humbert was sent in search of it, and came upon the bear as it was finishing its meal. Without a particle of fear, the Saint advanced against the savage beast, and commanded it to receive the burden of its victim. Wonderful to relate, the bear obeyed; the pack-saddle and the load were fastened on its back. Amandus was amazed to see Humbert overtake him with so strange a baggage-animal. Perfectly tame and obedient, it accompanied them on their journey, going of its own accord to its resting-place when they halted at an inn, and waiting for its food – which it received from the hands of Amandus – till the travellers had finished their repast. When they came near Rome, the fear that the unusual procession would excite disturbance caused them to seek guidance from Heaven. In the night his Guardian Angel made known to the Bishop that a horse would be sent to them, and that the bear should be dismissed to the woods. And so it turned out; by the Divine command, in the morning, a horse was brought to them from the city; the bear was set free, resuming with its liberty its former ferocity.

Having entered the city, the pilgrims were received most kindly by the Supreme Pontiff. They spent several weeks in visiting the churches and catacombs and in venerating the remains of the Saints. On their return, Humbert, who stayed at Mauricolae, was seized with a longing to revisit Rome. During his second stay there, as he was praying before the relics of Saint Peter, a cross was seen by many to form itself over his head.

Saint Humbert next led a colony of monks to Mauricolae, to a monastery which had been begun, but was not finished. While toiling at this work with his monks, the Saint had thrown his cloak on the ground at some little distance. Just then a stag, pursued by hounds and huntsmen, and almost at its last gasp, sought refuge under the Saint’s cloak. No effort of the huntsmen could prevail on the dogs to approach it. Their limbs stiffened, and they could not move till the leader of the huntsmen begged for mercy from the holy Abbot.

The famous Abbess Aldegunde once had her life saved, when perishing of thirst, by a spring which the prayers of Saint Humbert caused to gush forth; so when her preserver felt himself dying, he sent to Aldegunde for the funeral raiment which she had woven for him with her own hands. At that very moment an order from Above bade Aldegunde to despatch the robe. This miracle was discovered by the messengers, who met each other midway, and compared the times at which they had received their respective orders.

The date of Saint Humbert’s death is placed about A.D. 670.

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