19 February 2011

19 February - Saint Barbatus of Benevento

Today is the feast of St. Barbatus (or Barbas) of Benevento, Bishop.  He was born around 610 in Benevento (southern Italy) and died there in 682.

Of St. Barbatus, Rev. Butler states: "He was immediately employed by his bishop in preaching, for which he had an extraordinary talent; and, after some time, made curate of St. Basil’s, in Morcona, a town near Benevento. His parishioners were steeled in their irregularities, and averse from whatever looked like establishing order and discipline amongst them. As they desired only to slumber on in their sins, they could not bear the remonstrances of their pastor, who endeavoured to awake them to a sense of their miseries, and to sincere repentance: they treated him as a disturber of their peace, and persecuted him with the utmost violence. Finding their malice conquered by his patience and humility, and his character shining still more bright, they had recourse to slanders, in which, such was their virulence and success, that he was obliged to withdraw his charitable endeavours amongst them."

He returned to Benevento, where even many of the Christians held idolatrous superstitions, venerating a viper made of gold and a tree whereon was hung the skin of a wild animal.  Barbatus preached against these practices, but made no headway until the siege of the city by Emperor Constans (an event which he foretold).  Then the people "renounced their errors and idolatrous practices", and Barbatus gave them good comfort that the siege would soon be lifted.  He cut down the tree and melted the golden viper to fashion a chalice from it.

He was consecrated Bishop of Benevento in 663, and continued his work of eradicating the superstitions in the area.  Barbatus died in 682.

Rev. Butler goes on to moralize about people who only seek God when faced with troubles, and then return to their former lives when the trouble is gone.

I think more of our modern priests and bishops who are trying to eradicate the excesses and abuses which have crept in to our faith, most notably in our worship.  Like Barbatus, they are not popular, and their parishioners think nothing of slandering them and causing hate and discontent within the parish, going so far as to demand that the priest be removed.

Saint Barbatus, protect and strengthen your brothers, who are trying hard to cut down the trees and melt the golden idols that keep us from God.