Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Privatus, Bishop and Martyr

illustration of Saint Privatus of Mende from the Croy book of Hours, 15th century by Simon Liboron; Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée Nationale, Paris; swiped from Christian IconographyArticle

The holy bishop Privatus, whose festival is this day commemorated in the Roman Martyrology, was a native of Auvergne. Desiring to labor for the salvation of men, he studied theology and was ordained priest. The inhabitants of Mende, in the District of Gevaudan, wished him to become their bishop, as they were acquainted with his great zeal for the spiritual welfare of men, Privatus acceded to their wishes for the same reason that had induced him to study theology. In his episcopal functions he proved himself a true and indefatigable shepherd of his flock, which he guarded both by precept and example, and defended against the heretics as against destroying wolves. After some years, the Germans invaded France, under a duke, who was a bitter enemy of the Christians, and who devastated the country wherever he went. The inhabitants of Mende fled from the town and took refuge upon a high mountain in the neighborhood, which they fortified to the best of their ability. Saint Privatus had built a hermitage on another mountain, to which he sometimes repaired to pray and to occupy himself with other pious works in solitude and silence. When the Germans, who besieged the mountains to which the inhabitants of Mende had fled, perceived that their efforts were useless, some of them ascended the other mountain, and entering the grotto of Saint Privatus, they seized him, and demanded that he should advise the people of Mende to surrender themselves and sacrifice to the gods. Privatus replied fearlessly: “Were I to give such advice, I should not be worthy to be called a priest, much less, a bishop. Be assured that I will rather give my life than such wicked counsel.” Enraged at this answer, the barbarians fell upon the holy bishop, and scourged and tormented him until they were tired. After this, they endeavored to force him to sacrifice to the gods. “How dare you ask me to sacrifice to your gods?” said the Saint; “I will never do it; I worship daily the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, and I would rather die a thousand deaths than sacrifice to your false gods.” They then began again to whip, to kick and to torment him in every possible manner; but their wrath only augmented the courage of the holy bishop, who repeated his former words, and added: “You may torture me as you like, but you will never see me become faithless to my God, nor deliver my flock to your tyranny. Besides, be assured that they would rather starve than surrender themselves to you.” Hardly had the Saint uttered these words, when the barbarians attacked him in such a brutal manner, that, when they left him, they doubted not that he was dead. Seeing that they were unable to storm the mountain, they raised the siege and left the country. When the besieged became aware of this, they descended the mountain and sought their beloved bishop. They soon found him, but, alas! his whole body was wounded and maimed, and he was more dead than alive. They kissed his wounds amid floods of tears, and carrying him into the town, they nursed him most tenderly. Their unwearied solicitude succeeded in prolonging his life for a short time, which he employed in praising God and in instructing his beloved people, until at length, God called him, through a happy death, into a better life. This glorious martyrdom took place in the reign of the Emperor Valerian.

Practical Considerations

Saint Privatus preferred death rather than give to the Christians in his charge a counsel which he considered evil. He acted rightly; for, as it is a work of Christian charity to give good counsel to others, so it is contrary to that love which, by the divine law, we owe to our neighbors, knowingly to give them bad counsel. Hence, be careful never to become guilty of this sin. Never advise any one to omit a good deed, much less to commit evil; for, you must remember that those who give bad counsel, become guilty before God of the iniquities which it causes. Nay, even if he who has been advised to do wrong, commits not the deed, yet he, who has given the advice, has sinned. But he who gives good counsel, partakes of the good done by his advice. And if the good which you advised is not done, you still have your merit with God, because you gave the advice. Take this lesson to heart. You can advise many to do good; you can advise them frequently to be present at holy Mass and at sermons; to go oftener to confession; to refrain from lying, cursing and other vices; to shun this or that occasion of sin. Improve every opportunity; for, it is conducive to your own and your neighbor’s salvation.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Privatus, Bishop and Martyr”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 April 2018. Web. 23 July 2018. <>