Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Saint Amand


Saint Amand or Amandus (possible birth name Jacob) (c. 584 – 675) was a bishop of Tongeren-Maastricht and one of the great Christian missionaries of Flanders. He is venerated as a saint of France and Belgium.
The Vita Sancti Amandi is an eighth-century text, attributed to Beaudemond (Baudemundus). The vita was expanded by Philippe, abbot of Aumône. According to this biography, Amand was born in Lower Poitou. He was of noble birth but at the age of twenty he became a monk on the Île d'Yeu, against the wishes of his family. From there he went to Bourges and became a pupil of bishop Austregisilus. There he lived in solitude in a cell for fifteen years, living on no more than bread and water.
After a pilgrimage to Rome, he was made a missionary bishop in France in 628, without a fixed diocese. At the request of Clotaire II, he evangelized the pagan inhabitants of Ghent, later extending his field of operations to all of Flanders. Initially he had little success, suffering persecution and undergoing great hardships. However, after performing a miracle (bringing back to life a hanged criminal) the attitude of the people changed and he made many converts.
Under Amand's supervision monasteries were established at Ghent and Mont Blandin, the first in Belgium. The monastery at Ghent was founded by Saint Bavo, who was inspired by Amand's preaching. Having returned to France in 630, he angered Dagobert I by trying to make the king repent from his sinful life. In spite of the intervention of Saint Acarius, Amand was expelled from the kingdom. Later however, Dagobert asked for him to be pardoned and asked him to become the tutor of the heir to the throne. Amand however declined the honour. He requested from Acarius, then bishop of Noyon, letters from king Dagobert stating that the king wanted all to be baptized. This story was related by Beaudemond to show Amand's readiness to resort to forcible conversion and Dagobert's willingness to coerce in this. His next missionary task was among the Slavic people of the Danube valley in present-day Slovakia but this was unsuccessful. Amand went to Rome and reported to the Pope. While returning to France, he is said to have calmed a storm at sea.
From 647 till 650, Amand briefly served as Bishop of Maastricht. He found the church there is such disarray that he became discouraged and he appealed to Pope Martin I for further instructions. The pope gave him some advise how to deal with disobedient clerics and warned him about the Monothelite heresy, at that time prevalent in the East. Amand was commissioned by the pope to organize church councils in Neustria and Austrasia in order to pass on to the various decrees from Rome. The bishops asked Amand to return the proceedings of the church councils to the pope, at which occasion he seized the opportunity to relinquish his bishopric and resume his missionary work.
Around this time, Amand established contact with the family of Pepin of Landen and helped Gertrude of Nivelles and her mother Itta establishing the famous monastery of Nivelles. At the same time, he was now 70 years old, the inhabitants of the Basque country asked him to return to their country to evangelize, although 30 years earlier he had preached there in vain. Returning home, he founded several more monasteries in present-day Belgium with the help of king Dagobert.
Amand died in Elnone Abbey (later Saint-Amand Abbey, in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, near Tournai) at the age of ninety. His feast day is 6 February. Although mostly revered in Flanders and Picardy, he is also venerated in England, where at least one private chapel (at East Hendred in Oxfordshire) is dedicated to him.
Saint Amand is the patron saint of all who produce beer: brewers, innkeepers and bartenders (and presumably also hopgrowers). He is also the patron of vine growers, vintners and merchants, and of Boy Scouts.

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