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ST. ULRIC, BISHOP OF AUSBURG, CONFESSOR
From his accurate life, written by Gerard of Ausburg, in Mabillon, sæc. 2, Ben. &c. See the Bollandlsts.
A. D. 973.
ST. ULRIC or UDALRIC was son of count Hucbald, and of Thietberga, daughter of Burchard, one of the first dukes of Higher Germany. He was born in 893, and was educated from seven years of age in the abbey of St. Gal. Guiborate, a holy virgin who lived a recluse near that monastery, foretold him that he should one day be a bishop, and should meet with severe trials, but exhorted him to courage and constancy under them. So delicate and tender was the complexion of the young nobleman that all who knew him judged he could never live long. But regularity and temperance preserved a life, and strengthened a constitution which excessive tenderness of parents, care of physicians, and all other arts would probably have the sooner worn out and destroyed: which cardinal Lugo shows to have often happened by several instances in austere religious Orders.1 The recovery of the young count was looked upon as miraculous. As he grew up, his sprightly genius, his innocence and sincere piety, and the sweetness of his temper and manners charmed the good monks; and he had already made a considerable progress in his studies when his father removed him to Ausburg, where he placed him under the care of Adalberon, bishop of that city. The prelate, according to the custom of those times, made him his chamberlain when he was only sixteen years old, afterward promoted him to the first orders, and instituted him to a canonry in his cathedral. The young clergyman was well apprised of the dangers, and instructed in the duties of his state, which he set himself with all his strength faithfully to discharge. Prayer and study filled almost all his time, and the poor had much the greatest share in his revenues. During a pilgrimage which he made to Rome, this bishop died, and was succeeded by Hiltin. After his return he continued his former manner of life, advancing daily in fervor and devotion, and in the practices of humility and mortification. He was most scrupulously careful to shun as much as possible the very shadow of danger, especially with regard to temptations against purity, and it was his usual saying to others: “Take away the fuel, and you take away the flame.”
Hilton dying in 924, Henry the Fowler, king of Germany, nominated our saint, who was then thirty-one years of age, to the bishopric of Ausburg and he was consecrated on Holy Innocents’ day. The Hungarians and Sclavonians had lately pillaged that country, murdered the holy recluse Saint Guiborate, whom the Germans honor as a martyr, plundered the city of Ausburg, and burnt the cathedral. The new bishop, not to lose time, built for the present a small church, in which he assembled the people, who in their universal distress stood in extreme need of instruction, comfort, and relief; all which they found so abundantly in Ulric, that every one thought all the calamities they had suffered sufficiently repaired by the happiness they enjoyed in possessing such a pastor. He excused himself from attending the court, knowing of what importance the presence of a bishop is to his flock, for which he is to give a severe account to God. The levying and care of his troops, which in quality of prince of the empire he was obliged to send to the army, he entrusted to a nephew, devoting himself entirely to his spiritual functions. He rose every morning at three o’clock to assist with his canons at matins and lauds: after which he recited the psalter, litany, and other prayers. At break of day he said in choir the office for the dead, and prime, and was present at high mass. After tierce and long private devotions he said mass. He only left the church after none, and then went to the hospital, where he comforted the sick, and every day washed the feet of twelve poor people, giving to each of them a liberal alms. The rest of the day he employed in instructing, preaching, visiting the sick, and discharging all the duties of a vigilant pastor. He took his frugal meal only in the evening before complin. In this the poor always shared with him, for whom and for strangers meat was served up, except on fast-days, though he never touched it himself. He allowed himself very little time for sleep, lay on straw, and never used any linen. In Lent he redoubled his austerities and devotions. He made every year the visit of his whole diocess, and held a synod of his clergy twice a year. Upon the death of Henry1. Otho I. succeeded in the kingdom of Germany, between whom and his unnatural son Luitolf, a civil war broke out. St. Ulric strenuously declared himself against the rebels, who on that account harassed and plundered his diocess. But Arnold, count palatine, being slain before the walls of Ratisbon, St. Ulric obtained the king’s pardon for his son and the rest of the rebels.
The saint had fenced the city of Ausburg with strong walls, and erected several fortresses to secure the people from the inroads of barbarians. This was a precaution of the utmost importance; for the Hungarians made a second incursion, and laid siege to Ausburg. The good pastor continued in prayer, like Moses on the mountain, for his people, whom he convened in frequent processions and devotions. His prayers were heard, and the barbarians, being seized with a sudden panic fear, raised the siege and fled in great confusion. They were met and cut to pieces by Otho, who, in 962, was crowned Emperor by the pope. St. Ulric built his cathedral in a stately manner, and dedicated it again to God in honor of St. Afra, the celebrated patroness of Ausburg, in which city she received the crown of martyrdom in the persecution of Dioclesian. She is commemorated on the 5th of August. The saint earnestly desired to resign his bishopric, and retired to the monastery of St. Gal, some time before his death; but met with too great opposition. He made a second journey of devotion to Rome, and was received with extraordinary marks of esteem by the pope, and at Ravenna by the emperor and his pious empress. Otho I. died in May, 973, and from that time the saint’s health began sensibly to decline. During his last sickness he redoubled his fervor. In his agony he caused himself to be laid on ashes blessed and strewed on the floor in the form of a cross, in which posture he died amidst the prayers of his clergy, on the 4th of July, 973, being about fourscore years old, and having been bishop fifty years. He was buried in the church of St. Afra, which at present bears his name. His sanctity was attested by miracles, and he was canonized by pope John XV. in 993.
The saints living by faith had recourse to God in all their actions, and by that means drew down his blessing on their undertakings. It was the saying of a great man, that persons who expose themselves to many dangers and sins, often meet with temporal miscarriages,2 like the Israelites when they were deceived by the Gabaonites, because they neglect to commend their enterprises to God by fervent prayer and to consult his will.