Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Ildephonsus, Archbishop

illustration of Saint Ildephonsus, Archbishop, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberThis Saint was born in Spain, of an illustrious race. From his childhood he led so pure and humble a life, that it showed his fitness for the monastic state. His mother who, before his birth, had been warned of the future greatness of her offspring, encouraged his religious fervour, and when he was old enough, she placed him under the care of Saint Isidore, and he afterwards entered the Monastery of Agalia. Here Ildephonsus made so great progress in virtue that when the Archiepiscopal See of Toledo became vacant, he was promoted to it. At this time a fearful heresy was beginning to creep in, which assailed the virginity of the Blessed Mother of God; Ildephonsus, because of the devotion to the Virgin of Virgins, which filled his breast, wrote a book in which he emphatically denounced this error; and he was rewarded by a vision of the Virgin Mother, who took in her hand the work in which he had defended her virginity against Helvidius, and deigned to commend it. In this work the Saint speaks of the Blessed Virgin with the most tender devotion. Ildephonsus was praying one day at the tomb of Saint Leocadia, the King and a great crowd of people being present at the time, when the holy Martyr appeared to him, and said these words: “Through thee, O Ildephonsus, doth our Lady reign, who is enthroned in the highest heavens.”

The Feast of the Assumption of our Lady was one especially dear to the Saint, and when it occurred he always took special pains to promote the honour that is due to the Mother of God. He arranged for the performance, with due solemnity, of the office which had lately been ordered for the celebration of the festival, he caused hymns to be sung, and he exhorted the people to pay as much honour as they could to the Holy Virgin. On one of the feast days of the Blessed Virgin, the Saint rose early, as usual, for the office of Matins, and hastened to the Church; but at the threshold his attendants were so struck with terror at a glorious light which filled the Basilica, that they drew back, and Ildephonsus entered alone. When he approached the altar he was favoured by a vision of the Mother of God, surrounded by a resplendent band of Saints and Virgins, and our Lady addressed to him the following words:

“O most beloved Servant of God! receive the gift which I bestow upon thee from the treasures of my Son.” When she had so spoken, she placed a vestment on his shoulders and disappeared. Soon after this memorable vision, Saint Ildephonsus – having presided over the Church at Toledo for nine years – died on January 23rd, 667.

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