Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Judicael, King and Monk

illustration of Saint Judicael, King and Monk, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberJudicael, King of Armorica or Brittany, seems to have been given to the world for a shining example of how virtue can flourish amidst all the temptations of a palace. Ascending the throne towards the beginning of the seventh century of our era, he showed himself in all respects a perfect ruler. In him his people saw a wise care for their welfare, an utter disregard for the pomp of a court, justice tempered with mercy, a love of peace. Little wonder, then, that he was the pride of his countrymen, the glory of Brittany, and the pillar of the royal house.

Bertela, the royal consort, vied with her spouse both in virtues and in promoting the prosperity of the kingdom. Their union was blessed with unusual fruitfulness, Bertela having borne to her husband twenty children. All of these were so carefully brought up, so piously instructed, both by precept and example, that we find the Church, after they died, inscribed their names, as well as their father’s, on the roll of those who have entered into the possession of the kingdom of Heaven.

When some of his male offspring were old enough to wield the sceptre, their father summoned them to him, and disclosed a project he had long meditated. This was no less than to resign into the hands of the two eldest sons the kingly power. They were either to divide it between them, or to exercise joint rule. His object, Judicael explained, was to become a monk, and to give to God the few years that remained to him, as he knew that the helm of state could be safely entrusted to them, trained as they were by himself and their mother.

Instead of ambition, the young princes exhibited an affectionate rivalry as to which should decline the honour; for, like their father, they too longed for the monastic state. Judicael, the eldest, sought to shift the burden of royalty on to the shoulders of Jodoc, the second son, and Jodoc in turn wished Judicael to be king. As neither was willing to give up his desire for the religious life, at last, on the intervention of the nobles and at the bidding of his father, Judicael was obliged to take up the reins of government.

The aged King then retired, amidst the loud lamentations of his people, to a monastery, then called Majanus, where, by a life of humility and manual labour, he endeavoured to remove any traces of pride and haughtiness that he might have unwittingly contracted while on the throne. His delight was to perform the most menial offices – to clean kitchen utensils, to cut and carry wood for fuel, to wash the feet of his brethren – so much so, that he begged his Superior that he might be permitted to spend the rest of his days amongst the meanest servants of the monastery. It is not necessary to mention the fasts, the watching, and the discipline with which he daily mortified himself.

After setting such a glorious example of virtue, good works, and humility, Saint Judicael died a most holy death on the 6th March, A.D. 660.

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