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FIGHTING FOR A CROWN

Father Francis's picture
Saint Henry

Henry was a ruler of the Holy Roman Empire but now he wears a crown in Heaven because of his love for the Church and his people.

His mother was a princess of Burgundy and when his father died in 995 the 23-year-old Henry succeeded to the title of Duke of Bavaria. Seven years later he was chosen to replace the deceased Emperor Otto III and found himself, at the age of 30, holding the highest office it was possible to attain in the medieval world. In modern terms it could be compared with the presidency of the United States of America.

Henry was very conscious of that privilege and he felt that God had chosen him for a special responsibility. His greatest wish was to establish peace and happiness in his Christian realm. Nevertheless, he was a man of his time and he knew that Church politics and affairs of state would often be in conflict. He had to use all his skills of compromise and negotiation.

Although he had been elected as Emperor, Henry had many battles to fight before he could be crowned. The Empire had to be strengthened and defended. Then he had to launch a campaign in Italy to defeat a rival contender for the throne. It was only in 1014 that he was finally crowned in Rome by Pope Benedict VIII.

Henry proved himself to be a great benefactor to his people. He set up foundations for the relief of the poor and gave generous sums of money for the repair of churches throughout his empire. Under his patronage new churches were built, including the great cathedral of Bamberg and the monastery attached to it.

In 1021 Henry was returning from a campaign in Italy when he was taken ill. He spent some time at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino and it is said that he was cured through the intercession of St. Benedict. Certainly, from this time he took a great interest in the Benedictine Order, becoming a friend of the monks of Cluny Abbey whose way of life he admired. As far as possible he tried to live his own life according to Benedictine principles.

Henry died in Bamberg in 1024, was canonised in 1146 and has been chosen as the patron of Benedictine Oblates.

Saint Henry was a Christian statesman and soldier. He had to fight to defend his kingdom, and he struggled to gain the crown which had been promised to him. He never abused his power because he knew that God had called him to serve the Church and His people. We are all called to a particular vocation in the kingdom of God; he achieved his vocation. He now looks down from Heaven and I am sure is praying that we too will carry out the duties God has given us, so that one day we shall enjoy the crown which God has prepared for each one of us.