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

illustration of Saint Stephen, Abbot, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberSaint Stephen, who was born at Clermont, was brought, as soon as he was old enough, to Milo, the Bishop of Benevento, to be trained in literature and morals. Milo’s efforts were principally directed to cultivating the oratorical powers of his pupil; and this he did by teaching him to pour forth all his prayers to God in the simplest language, perfectly free from ornament. After our Saint had for some time practised himself in this study, he joined a monastic house, and subsequently became a hermit, in order that, in solitude, all his eloquence might be employed in winning the favour of Heaven. On Mount Muretus he built himself a rude cell, formed of interwoven branches, and scarcely large enough for a human being. To support his sides when about to pray, he fastened a steel corselet next his skin. His only food was coarse bread and cold water. One wretched cloak was all the covering he wore both in summer and in winter. Thus equipped, our Saint was so fervent and untiring in his addresses to Heaven, that he often went without food for two or three days at a time. As years rolled on, so efficacious was the eloquence of the Sainted Hermit, that, of the crowds who flocked to hear him, many embraced the monastic state. His oratory was as powerful in weaning the wicked from their sinful ways as it was in obtaining from Above help for his friends. Though most ascetic as regards his own food and clothing, he readily supplied the other monks with every indulgence the Rule of the Order permitted. So great was his humility, too, so unworthy did he consider himself, that, though he ruled the large community at Muretus for fifty years, he could never be induced by the Bishops to take Priest’s orders. His death took place when he was in his eightieth year, A.D. 1126.

While his brethren were sorrowfully preparing the funeral obsequies of their deceased Abbot, they, who for fifty years had been left in undisturbed possession of their monastery, were driven from it. While making ready for departure, and still uncertain where they would be allowed to lay the bones of the Saint, a voice from Heaven bade them proceed to Grandimons. Hastening thither in mournful procession, they there consigned the body to earth, and building themselves a humble monastery, they carried out with the greatest exactness the practices of their Order.

Grandimons soon became so celebrated for the numerous miracles wrought at the tomb of Saint Stephen, that the newly-built Monastery was besieged by crowds, some coming through curiosity, others through piety, and many in hopes of being cured. The cloisters resounded by night and by day with the cries of those coming and going. The new Abbot, seeing his Monks were unable to observe their vows of silence and solitude in consequence of the confusion caused by the continuous stream of visitors, went at the head of his brethren in solemn procession to the tomb of the Saint, and, after praying before the relics, he entreated Saint Stephen to restore to his house the peace and quiet that had been banished by the miracles. The holy Father heard his prayers; from that moment the miracles ceased, and the monks were enabled to again devote themselves to the observance of their solemn vows.

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