Bishop of Angers
Saint Maurilius, closely associated with the early history of the church of France, was born near Milan, of an illustrious Christian family, in the year 336. He was later drawn to Tours by the virtues of Saint Martin, who had built a monastery in Milan, where he had undertaken to form young men to virtue and sacred studies. Maurilius was among them; but when the Arians drove Saint Martin, a stranger in Italy, from the city, he lost his beloved master. He remained for a time as cantor for Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan, but after the death of his father renounced his patrimony and went to Tours to rejoin Saint Martin; there the Apostle of Gaul ordained him a priest.
He devoted himself to the salvation of souls; his zeal led him to a site near Angers where, by his prayers, he brought down fire from heaven on a pagan temple, and afterwards built a church of Jesus Christ at the same site. Alongside it he had a monastery constructed, and soon many souls came to dwell in the shadow of the cross, thus forming the city of Chalonne. When the bishop of Angers died, Maurilius was chosen by Saint Martin to succeed him. On the day of his consecration, a dove entered the church and came to rest on his head.
A few years later, a strange episode occurred. During the consecration of a Mass celebrated by the bishop, a dying child was brought in great haste to the church, to receive Confirmation. The Saint waited for the end of the Holy Sacrifice, but during this time the child died. Maurilius was so grieved by this that he fled without advising anyone and embarked for England, where in great humility he took employment as the gardener of a nobleman. His diocesans at Angers were inconsolable, and sought him out so well that they discovered his retreat. He refused, however, to return as bishop, stating that he could not do so because during his voyage he had lost at sea the keys to the cathedral, and had vowed not to return until he found them. But see, said the messengers, what we have here; during our crossing a fish was cast up by a wave onto the deck of the ship, and in its stomach we found these keys! Maurilius obeyed the Will of Heaven. When he returned he asked to be taken to the tomb of the child, and with tears streaming from his eyes asked God to restore him to life. The resurrected child was given the name of René for this reason, which in French means reborn, and he became the successor to Maurilius as bishop of Angers.
Reflection: When we discover in our lives the mysterious ways of God, we must express to Him in prayer our humble submission, despite our lack of understanding. I believe in order to understand, said Saint Augustine.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11