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ST. FARO, BISHOP OF MEAUX, C.
THE city of Meaux, situated on the Marne, ten leagues from Paris, in the time of the ancient Gauls, was subject to the Parisii, and received the first seeds of faith by the preaching of St. Dionysius of Paris about the year 250. St. Sanctinus, or Saintin, first bishop of Meaux, is said by some to have been a disciple of that saint in the third age; but Du Plessis1 thinks him to have been the same Saintin who was bishop of Verdun in the fourth century, and whose relics were translated from Meaux to the abbey of St. Vanne at Verdun, in the eleventh century. His successor Antoninus, and Rigomer the ninth bishop of Meaux, are honored among the saints. But the eminent sanctity of St. Faro, the fourteenth bishop of this see, has rendered his name the most illustrious of all the prelates of this see, who are mentioned in the calendars of the church. His original name is Burgundofaro, and that of his holy sister Burgundofara; the words faro and fara in the Burgundian language signifying of a lineage; so that these names imply that they were of an ancient noble Burgundian family,2 which is attested in the ancient life of St. Far0,3 and by a hymn on St. Faro used in the ninth age. Their father Agneric was one of the principal lords and officers at the court of Theodobert II., king of Austrasia; for Meaux and Brie then belonged to that kingdom, not to Burgundy, as Baillet pretends.4 For though Gontran, king of Orleans and Burgundy, from 561 to 592, possessed the county of Sens which had formerly been part of Austrasia, the kings of Austrasia were all that time in possession of Meaux. Agneric had by his wife Leodegondis four children, St. Cagnoald, (who took the monastic habit at Luxeul, under St. Columban,) St. Faro, St. Fara, and St. Agnetrudis. His seat was at Pipimisium, two leagues from Meaux, in the forest of Brie, according to the lives of St. Eustatius and St. Faro; which seems the village of Champigne in Brie, rather than Aubigny, as Mabillon conjectured,5 but which lies on the other side. There Agneric harbored St. Columban in 610, and that holy abbot gave his blessing to him and to each of his children, Cagnoald, the eldest, having lived under his discipline since the year 594, and then bearing him company.
St. Faro spent his youth in the court of king Theodobert II., where his life was rather that of a recluse than a courtier. After the death of Theodobert, and that of his brother and successor Theodoric, the saint, in 613, passed to the court of Clotaire II., who reunited the whole French monarchy. When that prince, provoked at the insolent speeches of certain Saxon ambassadors, had cast them into prison, and swore he would cause them to be put to death, St. Faro first prevailed on him to defer the execution twenty-four hours, and afterwards not only to pardon them, but also to send them home loaded with presents.
Mabillon quotes certain charters which St. Faro subscribed in quality of referendary or chancellor6 Dom. Du Plessis observes,7 that it is an unpardonable blunder of Yepez,8 who tells us, that St. Faro made his monastic profession at Rebais, when that abbey was not in being. Trithemius says9 he took the habit at Luxeul; which is also an evident mistake. For it is certain, that from a secular military state he passed to that of the secular clergy. At court he employed his credit with his prince to protect the innocent, the orphan, and the widow; and to relieve and comfort all that were in distress. The life which he led there was most edifying and holy prayer and pious meditation were his principal delight, and he inflamed his soul every day more and more with the love of heavenly things. His great virtues and abilities engaged the esteem and affection of the king and the whole nation; yet the world, while it flattered and smiled on him, displeased him. His employments in it, how just soever, seemed to distract his mind too much from God, and he saw nothing in it but snares and dangers. One day he entertained his sister St. Fara, who was at that time abbess, on this subject, in such a manner that, being penetrated more than ever with these sentiments, he was inspired with an earnest desire to forsake the world. Blidechilde, his wife, whose consent he asked, was in the same dispositions; and they parted by mutual consent. She took the religious veil, and retired to a solitary place upon one of her own estates, which seems to have been at Aupigny, where, some years after, she died in the odor of sanctity. St. Faro received the clerical tonsure, and was the ornament of the clergy of Meaux; which episcopal see becoming vacant by the death of the Bishop Gondoald, he was unanimously chosen to fill it, about the year 626.
The holy prelate labored for the salvation of the souls committed to his charge, with unwearied zeal and attention, and promoted exceedingly their advancement in Christian perfection, and the conversion of those who had not yet forsaken the errors of idolatry. The author of his life tells us that he restored sight to a blind man by conferring on him the sacrament of confirmation, and wrought several other miracles. In 650 he assisted at the council of Sens: he invited holy men into his diocese, and encouraged and promoted pious foundations to be sanctuaries of religion, and nurseries and schools of piety and virtue. Excited by his exhortations and example, many others entered into the same zealous views, and gave themselves up to the most heroic practices of virtue.*
St. Faro afforded a retreat to St. Fiaker, and directed many saints of both sexes in the paths of perfection, and had a share in many pious establishments made by others. A little before his death he founded in the suburbs of the city of Meaux, where he possessed a large estate, the great monastery of the Holy Cross, which now bears his name, and is of the reformed congregation of St. Maur St. Faro placed in it monks from Luxeul, of the institute of St. Columban; but the rule of St. Bennet was afterwards received here, and the famous abbey of Prum, founded by king Pepin in the Ardennes, in 763, was a filiation of this house. St. Faro, after having peopled his diocese with so many saints, went to receive the recompense of his labors on the 28th of October, in 672, being about fourscore years old, and having governed the church of Meaux forty-six years.10 See the three Latin lives of St. Faro, one compiled by Hildeger, bishop of Meaux, in the ninth century, (ap. Mabil. Act. Ben. t. 2, p. 606,) another in verse, written by Fulcoius, subdeacon of Meaux, in the eleventh century; and a third published by Surius, with alterations of the style; extant genuine in manuscripts at St. Faro’s, &c. See also Dom. Toussaints Du Plessis, the Maurist monk, Hist. de l’Eglise de Meaux, t. 1,1. 1, n. 41, 42, 43, 64, 73, note 22, 23, 24, 36; and on the plundering of St. Faro’s church by the Huguenots, ib.1. 4, n. 49, 50, p. 358, t. 2, p. 664.