This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 19 -- Blessed Urban V

It seems appropriate that Urban's a beatus but not a full saint. He was holy enough and well intended, but the biggest of his enterprises fell to naught. On the miracle measure, he was found a little short.

A devout and accomplished Benedictine, he was elected pope in the 1360s as a compromise candidate. This was during the time that the Papacy had relocated to Avignon. The poet Petrarch wrote a letter scolding him for sleeping "under your guilded beams on the banks of the Rhone while the Lateran, the mother of all churches, ruined and roofless, is open to the wind and rain, and the most holy shrines of Peter and Paul are quaking, and what was once the Church of the Apostles is a heap of stones?" Rome had suffered a fire in addition to all its other miseries; its buildings were ruined and its people were starving.

Urban loaded a fleet of ships in Marseilles and returned the Curia to Rome, over the objections of the King of France, the French aristocracy, and a lot of cardinals who had no wish to leave the security and luxury of Avignon for the deprivations and peril of Rome. Initially he had the support of the Holy Roman and Byzantine Emperors, but the former was offering only lip service and the latter was in dire straits himself. Within a year, the Roman nobles were fighting among themselves, the rebuilding projects were stalled, and the Curia was on its way back to Avignon. Blessed Urban V died there in 1370, his bags hardly unpacked.

History eventually swung Urban's way, but not before an ugly rift in the Church established rival popes in Rome and Avignon were at odds with each other. If Petrarch forgave him, we can too, but his papacy is a sign of the wretched condition of the Church rather than its miraculous power.

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