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 17, 2011

December 17 -- Feast of Saint Sturmius of Fulda

Abbot Mordalfus of Redwall
In the Redwall books by Brian Jacques, there is an abbey full of forest creatures that is endlessly threatened by vermin invaders.  There's no evident religious mission to this abbey -- it's apparently just an outpost of kindness and virtue.  That's mission enough, I guess, when the world is full of rats and stoats and wildcats and weasels.  But there is no evidence of ecclesiastical and state politics at Redwall Abbey either, and that makes the blessed little hares and mice lucky indeed.  It means that they lived in an abbey nullius diocesseos, a Roman Catholic community that is not located in a diocese (church district) and therefore not under the direction of a bishop. (The subsequent generalizations about monasteries apply only in the Roman Church -- Eastern monasteries are both older and differently organized.)

12-tasseled green hat of an abbot nullius
Saint Sturmius was an abbot nullius.  Having been born to a noble family and placed within the church at an early age, marked for priesthood, Sturm knew the ropes.  After a couple years as a migrant missionary, he and a couple helpers picked a spot in the the woods and began to build a monastery.  If you build it, they'll come, you know.  When it was clear that his community would thrive, he took off to Rome and Montecassino to learn the ropes.  He also got himself in tight with Charlemagne so he could get formal recognition as an abbot nullius, meaning he (and his successors) would answer only to the Pope and the Emperor, not any future barons or bishops who might show up to capitalize on his trailblazing.  Recognition was granted and he put on the green hat with twelve tassels that abbots nullii wore.  Actually, he probably didn't wear something like that, but the coat of arms on the royal charter would have shown it.

Montecassino was Saint Benedict's own monastery, so it is the Benedictine Motherhouse.  Since Sturm went there to learn The Way of the Monk, we should not be surprised that he became the first Benedictine in Germany.  Being reverent is different from being pious -- I like to think Sturm was both.  I also like to think that there was an element of reverence in his decision to secure the body of Saint Boniface, Apostle of the Germans, for burial at Fulda rather than Mainz.  It was plainly a shrewd move, in that tourism (a fetal industry, at that point) was entirely rooted in pilgrimage.

Sturm's transept in Fulda
When Pepin replaced his father Charlemagne as monarch, Sturm fell afoul of the political winds.  Bishop Saint Lull of Mainz, perhaps still stung by the loss of Boniface's relics, petitioned to have the abbey placed under his jurisdiction.  Sturm's objections that Fulda was an abbey nullius were answered with an order of exile by Pepin.  The Brothers of Fulda rebelled; Pepin relented.

Sturm's mission work in Saxony was largely a failure -- he was ironically perceived as being too tight with Charlemagne and Pepin.  However, he administered Fulda to the end of his days and was buried there.  At some point since, it ceased to be an abbey nullius; there are only eleven (not counting Redwall) left in the world; appropriately, Montecassino tops the list. The abbey church at Fulda now serves as the cathedral and is not too shabby, as you can see from the corner dedicated to its founder, Sturmius. 

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