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, October 31, 2011

October 31 -- Feast of Saint Wolfgang of Ratisbon

I wasn't sure about this guy until I saw that the people of Trier called him Eleemosynarius Major.  My son is lucky that he was named before I came across that title! [It means Greater Almoner, which I am sure makes everything the meaning crystal-clear.]  

With the axe he tossed to Fortune
Although he is counted among Germany's biggest saints of the 10th century (that's not meant to be as demeaning as it sounds), his life doesn't sound as interesting or impressive as it was.  Having come from a reasonably privileged home, he attended a monastic school with a solid reputation.  His classmate, Henry, became archbishop of Trier and persuaded him to open a school under the aegis of the cathedral.  After Henry's death, Wolfgang entered a Benedictine monastery and  eventually was ordained into the priesthood.  

Ulrich of Augsburg, recognizing that there would never be peace with the Magyars (Hungarians) until they were Christianized, sent Wolfgang to Pannonia to evangelize.  Then a subsequent bishop named Piligrim, recognizing that Wolfgang's success was underwhelming, he sent others to sub for him.  

Piligrim was no hater, though.  When the see of Regensberg came open, Piligrim saw that Wolfgang was appointed to it.  Wolfgang, having decided to live his life in a monastery, resisted, but his protests were overruled by his bishop and emperor.  
The Perils of a Disorderly Convent

He set about reforming the way business was done, including cleaning up a couple of "disorderly convents" (wink-wink, nod-nod, know what I mean, say no more!).  He tutored the Henry II, the future saint (July 13) and Holy Roman Emperor.  He participated in councils, founded and reformed abbeys, and as is employed in the title above, cared for the poor.  
Wolfgang and the Devil plan to build a chapel 

None of which is as interesting as one episode -- largely legendary -- in the saint's later life.  Although Wolfgang was an effective reformer and all-around great bishop, he never really liked the managerial work.  He'd been bishop for about four years when he got the eremitic itch and bolted to Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.  There, he climbed onto the mountainside and flung his axe down, letting the Lord (or Fortune, or Chaos, or whatever) guide his choice of sites for a chapel.  Construction is tough work, but the Devil appeared to offer a bargain: top quality construction at the discount price of the first living being to enter the building.  The Devil was the first to enter, as Wolfgang had anticipated, but he shrewdly pointed out that he was not a living being.  But Wolfgang was shrewder, and left the door open until a wolf entered the chapel.  

I have no doubt there would have been more scrapes between the Devil and Wolfgang the Hermit, had the Runway Bishop been allowed to stay in his lakeside hermitage.  Sadly, a hunter happened upon him, recognized him, and brought him back to Regensberg, where he administered the diocese for another couple of decades.