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.

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11 -- Feast of Saint Benedict of Milan

Saint Benedict, bishop of Milan, was a very pious man and dedicated leader of the Church.  Let me not seem to contradict that thought with any speculative criticism of a controversy in which he became involved.  If he had not been a wise and holy bishop, his epitaph for Saint King Caedwalla would not have been preserved, his contributions to healing the 150 year breach with Rome known as the Three Chapters Schism, and he would not have been acclaimed a saint throughout Italy after his death sometime around 732. 

The part of Benedict's career that I question is his petition to Pope Constantine to preserve the subordination of the Bishop of Pavia to the archbishop of Milan.  Let us grant that Benedict was historically correct that Pavia had been under the See of Milan prior to the schism, but had been reapportioned to Rome's bishop when the Milanese archbishops were not in communion with Rome.  What reasons could have impelled him to seek restoration of this former structure?

1.  Let's be generous and grant him a conservative desire to restore everything that had been disrupted by his predecessors' breach with Rome.  They had done a lot of damage with the Three Chapters Schism and no doubt he wanted to mend things.  As he was working toward this, Bishop Armentarius of Pavia was consecrated without his approval or participation.  It might have been natural to object to the loss of his privilege in Pavia.  Then again, change is natural.  Pavia had grown up to become the capital of the Lombard Kingdom while Milan, which had served as the Western Roman capital from 286 to 402, had fallen under the control of the Lombards in 569.  This followed the conquest of the city by Huns and then Ostrogoths.  Even conservatives have to face the reality of change at some point. 

Pavia: big city
2.  Let's be less generous and assume an element of vanity.  He was an archbishop; Armentarius was a neighboring bishop.  Of course his neighbor should be subordinate to him.  For the bishop of Rome to see-jack Pavia away from him was just wrong.  Anyone would seek redress, right?  Of course, but Christian humility might demand that Benedict stand down.  And of course he did, though we don't know with what attitude.  Perhaps he grumbled and grudgingly acquiesced.  Then again, perhaps he asked humbly and received his answer with all humility and no wavering of fraternal love.  If vanity motivated him, then let us hope he corrected himself with humility. 

3.  Let's be unkind and think about power.  In an era when synods and councils set policies that could get someone anathematized and exiled, it is good to have allies.  When papal elections roll around, it is nice to have favors to call in.  In the not-too-distant future, the selling of church offices (simony) would become a common practice. 

Saint Benedict, bishop of Milan, was a very pious man and dedicated leader of the Church.  I imagine, therefore, that he raised the question with a sincere concern for the restoration of the old ways and that he accepted the Pope's reply without resentment or rancor. 

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