Eligius: A Good & Faithful Servant

I receive daily stories from the Christian History Institute about the history of the Church and those who served Christ well in their lives. I particularly like the ones that go back in the very early years and inform me of great figures in church history that I had never heard of previously.

Here’s one of those, which I hope will be an inspiration as you begin your work week.

SAINT AND BISHOP Eligius from Aquitaine (in the area that is now modern France) was a deeply honorable and tenderhearted man. Given a donation of land for some monks to build on, he discovered he had taken a foot too much. He immediately went to the French king Dagobert, prostrated himself at his feet, and apologized with tears.

On another occasion, Dagobert demanded Eligius take an oath before entrusting him with some important task. Eligius, who took seriously Christ’s admonition against swearing, begged to be excused. Dagobert insisted. Eligius burst into tears. Acknowledging the saint’s integrity, the king yielded.

During the Middle Ages, Eligius (known as Eloy, or Loy, in England) was a well-known and much-loved saint. Because of a miracle he supposedly worked with a horse and horseshoe, he became the patron of blacksmiths and farriers. His image appeared in English churches.

Before becoming a bishop, Eligius was a goldsmith and operated the royal mint. Even as a layman, he was noted for his love of godly things. He kept his Bible open on his desk while he worked, bought slaves to free them, buried the bodies of criminals, and gave large sums of money to charity and for building monasteries.

When Bishop Acarius of Noyon-Tournai died on 27 November 639, King Clovis II, who had replaced Dagobert on the throne, asked Eligius to fill the vacant place. Eligius, with his deep sense of responsibility, asked for time to prepare himself. In his second year of study, after first having been ordained as a priest, he assumed his new duties. He was consecrated bishop on Sunday 13 May 641.

Noyon is in the vicinity of Belgium. Much of Eligius’s see (the area overseen by a bishop) was unevangelized, and he engaged in mission work among the Flemings, Suevi, and others. By his exemplary life and by tending the sick among his pagan enemies, he eventually converted many to Christianity.

Over his years as bishop, Eligius preached many sermons, believing God would hold him accountable if he neglected souls. One that has come down to us centers on obedience to Christ:  “For he who will be a true Christian must needs keep these commandments; because if he does not keep them, he deceives himself. He, therefore, is a good Christian who puts faith in no charms or diabolical inventions, but places all his hope in Christ alone.”

Eligius died of fever at about seventy years of age on the first day of December. The year is uncertain, and may have been as early as 659 or as late as 665.