17 September 2011

17 September - Saint Lambert; Stoofperen

In the Calendar of the Grande Heures, today is devoted to Saint Lambert of Maestricht, bishop and martyr.  He was born circa 635 in Maestricht [Maastricht] to upper-class parents and given a good education by the saintly priest Landoaldus of the cathedral church, and later by the bishop, St. Theodardus (who may also have been his uncle).  Lambert succeeded him as bishop of Maestricht in 670, but after the murder of the Merovingian king Childeric II, whom he had supported against Mayor-of-the-Palace Ebroin, the de facto ruler of the land, Lambert fled to the Abbey of Stavelot, where he lived for seven years, edifying the monks with his saintly life.

The Golden Legend, always ready with an edifying examples, offered this:
And Lambert entered into a monastery, and was there and conversed seven years goodly. On a night when he arose from prayer, he let wind go behind by ignorance, and when the abbot heard it he said: He that hath done that, let him go out to the cross barefoot. And anon Lambert went out to the cross barefoot in his hair, and was there and went in the snow and in the frost when the brethren chauffed them after matins. And the abbot demanded where Lambert was, and a brother said that he was gone to the cross by his commandment. He did do call him, and then the abbot and his monks required him to pardon them, but he not only pardoned them, but also preached to them the virtue of patience.

Ebroin, according to the chroniclers, finally got his just reward for his wicked ways (he was assassinated in 681).  Lambert was allowed to return to his See of Maestricht and resume his duties there, which he coupled over the next few years with the evangelization of the lands of modern Belgium.  Life would likely have continued in this round of priestly duties, had not something occurred which Lambert could not ignore.

Pepin of Heristal, who had succeeded by conquest to the Mayoralty of all three of the Frankish kingdoms and was the true ruler of Francia, had been married for at least fifteen years to a good woman, the mother of his two sons, when he had the usual mid-life crisis and took up with a mistress, Alpais or Alpaida, who gave him another two sons.  Lambert could not stand by without remonstrating against this unlawful union; he paid a visit to the palace, and Pepin, who was fond of the bishop, received him hospitably.  This was not a good sign to Alpais; she had been working to make her sons the heirs of their father in place of his legitimate children, and if Pepin listened to Lambert's reproaches and agreed to end the relationship, it would be the end of her influence, now and future, as well.

[That one of Alpais' sons was Charles Martel, the Hammer, whose defeat of the Muslims at Poitiers halted their northward expansion, is no argument for sin.  God can bring good out of evil, but we are not supposed to do evil on the off-chance that God will produce good from it.]

Alpais poured out her fears to her brother Dodo [now there's a good name!], who may already have had a grudge against Lambert for the murder of two of his friends by some of the bishop's supporters. Dodo agreed and arranged the assassination. While praying in the chapel of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Liege, Lambert and those at the altar with him were attacked by Dodo's soldiers, who pierced the bishop's heart with a javelin.  His body was conveyed secretly to Maestricht for burial, but St. Hubert, to whom Lambert had been a spiritual director, later moved the saint's remains to his own see city of Liege.

Saint Lambert is a martyr for the sanctity of marriage.  In your prayers today, remember those poor souls who, through cultural influences, have learned to disregard the sanctity of marriage - not only those who commit adultery in their marriage, but those who commit it before, believing that cohabitation and indiscriminate sexual activity are not wrong "because we're in love, and who are you to impose your morality on me?"  Sad souls.  Sad souls.

Maastricht is today the capital of the Dutch province of Limburg, part of the lands whence came the famous and pungent Limburger cheese.  Trust me, it is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who desire a social life.  If you rise above either of those categories, prove your strength with a Limburger Sandwich.  You'll be banned from polite society, or, like St. Lambert, be forced to spend time outside while your companions debate your fitness to return to the haunts of men, but lovers of Limburger care naught for that.

For those more socially inclined, celebrate with a Dutch dessert like STOOFPEREN (Stewed Pears):

Peel and core 12 pears.  Cut them into quarters.

In a large saucepan, mix together 1 cup each of water, dry red wine, and sugar.  Bring mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Reduce heat, add the pears, and simmer until they are almost tender.  Stir in 2 cinnamon sticks and 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon rind, and cook until the fruit is tender.  Serve warm.