St. Ubaldus, Bishop of Gubio
HE was born of a noble family at Gubio, a city of the Ecclesiastical State, near the marquisate of Ancona. He had his education in the seminary of SS. Marian and James, and made great progress in his studies both profane and sacred; but the holy scriptures, those springs of living waters, were his chief delight. Many honourable matches were proposed to him by his friends; but he rejected all such offers, and made a vow of celibacy. His ardour in the perfect practice of virtue strengthened him against the bad example of many tepid companions. However, not approving certain irregularities which he saw tolerated among them, he exchanged this house for the seminary of St. Secundus, where he finished his studies. The bishop of Gubio made him prior of his cathedral that he might reform several abuses in the behaviour of the canons. Ubaldus prepared himself for this important work by fasting, prayers, and tears, by which he hoped to engage the divine assistance. He easily prevailed on three of his canons who were the best disposed, to join with him in his exercises and rules of life; and their example soon began to work upon the rest.
The saint visited a community of regular canons, esteemed for their regularity and sanctity, which had been established by Peter de Honestis, a person of singular piety, in the territory of Ravenna. He staid there three months in order to take an exact view of the discipline of the house; and he carried its rule back with him to Gubio, and in a short time got it received by the whole chapter to render their reformation complete. After some years, their house and cloister being burnt down, Ubaldus looked upon this as a favourable opportunity of leaving his post, and retiring into some desert. In this view he made his way to that of Font-Avellano, where he found Peter of Rimini, to whom he communicated his design of quitting the world. That great servant of God opposed the motion as a dangerous temptation, and exhorted him to return to his former vocation, in which God had fixed him for the good of others. The saint, therefore, returned to Gubio, rebuilt the cloisters, and rendered his chapter more flourishing than it had ever been, to the great edification of the whole country. In 1126, St. Ubaldus was unanimously chosen bishop of Perugia; but he hid himself in the country, so that the deputies of that city were not able to find him; and when they were departed, he went to Rome, threw himself at the feet of Pope Honorius II. and with many tears begged that he might be excused; employing all the interest he had in the world to obtain the favour he desired. Honorius granted his request; but the see of Gubio becoming vacant two years after, the pope directed the clergy of that city to proceed to his election according to the forms prescribed by the canons: in consequence of which his holiness consecrated him with his own hands in the beginning of the year 1129. The new bishop made it his whole business to adorn the dignity of his station with all the virtues of a true successor of the apostles. He practised a perpetual mortification of all his senses, and lived dead to all the enjoyments of the world: he was indefatigable both in the exercise of penance, and in the labours of his ministry; frugal, humble, sincere, and full of compassion for all the world. But mildness and patience, by which he appeared insensible to injuries and affronts, was one of the brightest parts of his character. Once it happened, that in repairing the wall of the city, the workmen encroached upon his vineyard. The bishop mildly put them in mind of it, and desired them to forbear. The overseer of the work moved with brutish fury, scornfully pushed him into a great heap of mortar. The good bishop got up all covered with lime and dirt, without making the least expostulation. The people demanded that the overseer, in punishment for the offence, should be banished, and his goods confiscated. The saint endeavoured to make it pass for an accident; but when that could not satisfy the people, who knew how it happened, he being desirous to deliver the man out of the hands of the magistrates, maintained that the cognizance of the misdemeanour belonging to his own court, he would take care to do himself justice. The workman, stung with remorse, proffered to accept of any punishment the bishop should think proper to inflict on him, even though his life was to pay for the offence. The holy prelate, rising from his chair, went up to him, and told him with a smiling countenance, that by way of satisfaction for the injury received, he insisted on his giving him a kiss of peace, as a token of a perfect reconciliation, and that he begged of God to pardon him that and all other offences. After which he saluted him. 1
The saint often defended his flock in public dangers. Hearing one day that a sedition was raised in one of the streets, wherein some were wounded, others killed, he ran out, and venturing himself between the combatants, fell down amidst their naked swords. The mutineers thinking him dead, all threw away their weapons, running to take him up, and every one condemned himself as the murderer of their holy bishop. Then the saint, thanking God that the tumult was appeased, dispelled their fears by assuring them that he had received no hurt. The Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, in his cruel wars in Italy, having taken and plundered Spoleto, threatened to do the like by Gubio. Ubaldus, moved by a more than fatherly tenderness for his flock, met the emperor on the road, and on his first interview softened the heart of that tyrant to compassion, and obtained of him the safety of his people. The two last years of his life he laboured under a complication of painful distempers, which he bore with the patience of a saint. On Easter-day, in 1160, his devotion to the glorious mystery of that festival made him forget his infirm condition, get up, say mass, and give the people a discourse on eternal life. From the cathedral he would be carried to the church of St. Laurence, near which he had an apartment. He continued there till the feast of the ascension in retirement, to prepare himself for death. After that he was removed into his own house, where he repeated his last instructions to his clergy and people, who came to visit him and beg his last blessing. Having received the rites of the church, he expired on the 16th of May, 1160. The people from all the neighbouring provinces attended his funeral in crowds, and were eye-witnesses of the many miracles God performed at his tomb. So tender was the devotion which this spectacle excited in every one, that animosities and dissensions over the whole country were extinguished, and a most wonderful spirit of charity was infused into all hearts. Injuries were forgotten, and cities which had been long at variance, renewed the most sincere league of friendship. St. Ubaldus had been favoured with the miraculous gift of curing diseases in his lifetime, which he performed by the sign of the cross and prayer; yet, when a certain blind man addressed himself to him to be cured, the bishop told him that his corporal sight would be prejudicial to his soul, and that his temporal blindness would be recompensed with the clear vision of God in heaven for all eternity: at which the good man was so well satisfied, that he no longer desired to be cured. St. Ubaldus was canonized by Pope Celestine III. in 1192. See his accurate life written by Tebald, his successor, in the Acta Sanctorum.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume V: May.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866. May 16.