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

illustration of Saint Odilo, Abbot, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict, designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberWhile some people are stimulated by strength and vigour of body, to the practice of virtue, Saint Odilo, on the contrary, was urged on to fervent piety by his bodily infirmities. Almost as soon as he was born, he became afflicted with a grievous malady which deprived him of the use of his hands and feet. From his infancy he had entertained a singular devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, and when physicians had given up his case as hopeless, he commended himself to her. He insisted on being allowed to crawl to the foot of our Lady’s Altar, and as he went, the use of his limbs was restored to him. This great blessing which he had received from Mary remained ever present to his memory in after years, and his great desire was to dedicate the new strength which had been given him to her service. As soon as he was old enough, Saint Odilo went to Cluny, and became a professed Monk, and afterwards the Abbot of that Monastery; and strict indeed was his observance of the rule, for he was a truly humble son of the most humble Virgin. His humility induced him unhesitatingly to reject several Bishoprics, which, in consequence of his great merits, were pressed upon him, and he continued to adorn his Order by his virtue and charity towards the suffering poor.

And not only on the living did his charity expend itself, but also on the dead; and once, when on a journey, he came upon the dead bodies of two children, he deprived himself of his own frock, in which to bury them. His virtue was attested by many miracles. Once, when dining at the Monastery in the Golden Valley, he asked for some water, but found on tasting it that his cup was filled with wine; and as he never drank wine, he blamed the servant for having brought it. More water was then fetched from the well, and again, when Odilo drank it, it was turned into wine, and all wondered at the miracle which had been performed. His love and piety penetrated even to Limbo, and relieved the suffering souls, whose flames were tempered by his tears. Among others, Pope Benedict VIII declared in a vision that he attributed his deliverance from the fires of Purgatory to the prayers of Saint Odilo, for one of the Monks of Cluny saw the spirit of the Pontiff bowing down in gratitude to Saint Odilo, the tiara bending before the cowl. The Archives of the Monastery of Cluny show that many souls in Purgatory – even some thousands – were powerfully helped by the prayers of Saint Odilo, and he it was who first instituted a yearly solemnity in behalf of the Holy Souls. This solemnity, as we know, was afterwards adopted by the whole Church, and is now yearly celebrated on the Second of November as All Souls’ Day.

When his death was approaching, the demon appeared to the Saint as he did to Saint Martin; but at the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who deigned to come to the aid of His servant, the evil spirit fled. For what could trouble a soul to whom the Lord of Life had deigned to reveal Himself? Saint Odilo died in the year of our Lord 1048, at the age of eighty-seven.

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