ST. ARNOUL, BISHOP OF METZ, C.
AMONG the illustrious saints who adorned the court
of king Clotaire the Great, none is more famous than St. Arnoul. He
was a Frenchman, born of rich and noble parents; and, having been
educated in learning and piety, was called to the court of king
Theodebert, in which he held the second place among the great
officers of state, being next to Gondulph, mayor of the palace.
Though young, he was equally admired for prudence in the council and
for valor in the field. By assiduous prayer, fasting, and excessive
alms-deeds, he joined the virtues of a perfect Christian with the
duties of a courtier. Having married a noble lady called Doda, he had
by her two sons, Clodulf and Ansegisus; by the latter the
Carlovingian race of kings of France descended from St. Arnoul.
Fearing the danger of entangling his soul in many affairs which
passed through his hands, he desired to retire to the monastery of
Lerins; but being crossed in the execution of his project, passed to
the court of king Clotaire. That great monarch, the first year in
which he reigned over all France, assented to the unanimous request
of the clergy and people of Metz, demanding Arnoul for their bishop.
Our saint did all that could be done to change the measures taken,
but in vain. He was consecrated bishop in 614, and his wife Doda took
the religious veil at Triers. The king obliged Arnoul still to assist
at his councils, and to fill the first place at his court. The saint
always wore a hair shirt under his garments; he sometimes passed
three days without eating, and his usual food was only barley and
water. He seemed to regard whatever he possessed as the patrimony of
the poor, and his alms seemed to exceed all bounds. His benevolence
took in all the objects of charity, but his discretion singled out
those more particularly whose greater necessities called more
pressingly upon his bounty.
In 622 Clotaire II. divided his dominions, and
making his son Dagobert king of Austrasia, appointed St. Arnoul duke
of Austrasia and chief counsellor and Pepin of Landen mayor of his
palace. The reign of this prince was virtuous, prosperous, and
glorious, so long as Arnoul remained at the helm; but the saint
anxiously desiring to retire from all business, that he might more
seriously study to secure his own salvation before he should be
called hence, never ceased to solicit the king for leave to quit the
court. Dagobert long refused his consent, but at length, out of a
scruple lest he should oppose the call of heaven, granted it, though
with the utmost reluctance. St. Arnoul resigned also his bishopric,
and retired into the deserts of Vosge, near the monastery of
Remiremont, on the top of a high mountain, where a hermitage is at
this day standing. Here the saint labored daily with fresh fervor to
advance in the path of Christian perfection; for the greater progress
a person has already made in virtue, the more does the prospect
enlarge upon him, and the more perfectly does he see how much is yet
wanting in him, and how great a scope is left for exerting his
endeavors still more. Who will pretend to have made equal advances
with St. Paul towards perfection? yet he was far from ever thinking
that he had finished his work, or that he might remit anything in his
endeavors. On the contrary, we find him imitating the alacrity of
those who run in a race who do not so much consider what ground they
have already cleared, as how much still remains to call forth their
utmost eagerness and strength. Nor can there be a more certain sign
that a person has not yet arrived at the lowest and first degree of
virtue, than that he should think he does not need to aim higher. In
this vigorous pursuit St. Arnoul died on the 16th of August in 640.
His remains were brought to Metz, and enrich the great abbey which
bears his name. The Roman Martyrology mentions him on the 18th of
July, on which day the translation of his relics was performed; the
Gallican on the 16th of August. See his life, faithfully compiled by
his successor, in Mabillon, Act. Bened. t. 2, p. 150. Also Calmet,
Hist. de Lorraine, t. 1,1. 9, n. 10, &c. p. 378, 381, &c.
Bosch the Bollandist, t. 5, Jul. p. 423; and D. Cajot, Benedictin
monk of St. Arnoul’s Les Antiquités de Metz, an. 1761.