Today we commemorate Saint Hugh of Grenoble, the generous bishop with God

Jasjot Singh

On the first day of April, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Hugh of Grenoble (France), also known as Saint Hugh of Châteauneuf, who was first a canon of the city of Valence, and then Bishop of Grenoble for more than half a century, between 1080 and 1132.

St. Hugh was a fervent defender of the Gregorian reform, a man with a strong inclination towards the monastic life, but whose love for the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, led him to pastoral service, to which he dedicated himself wholeheartedly. Hugo de Châteauneuf was canonized in 1134 by Pope Innocent II.

Called to serve and not to be served

Hugo was born in Valence (France) in the year 1052. While still a layman he was appointed canon of his hometown at the age of 28. His intense piety and good theological training had earned him a reputation as a prudent man, devoted to the affairs of God. For this reason, the Bishop of Valence invited him to accompany him to the Council of Avignon in 1080. That year, precisely, he would be elected bishop without even being a priest.

The saint would soon obtain the dispensations and would receive holy orders in an extraordinary period. At the same time, Hugo was experiencing the uncertainty of not feeling worthy of the position, and he made an attempt to avoid ending up as bishop, but his vocation to serve made him accept the assignment. The delegate of the Supreme Pontiff had managed to convince him and he himself ordered it. He later took him to Rome to be ordained a bishop by Pope Gregory VII.

Bishop ´by force´, Pastor by love

Hugo’s destiny as a pastor would be Grenoble, the city to which he would consecrate the next 50 years of his life, until the day God called him to his presence. Upon assuming the episcopal see, he found that the situation in his diocese was disastrous and therefore he took it upon himself to implement the Gregorian reform. The congregation was abandoned in most cases and there was little instruction. Meanwhile, the clergy was involved in a series of corruptions such as simony; and the properties of the Church were disputed by wealthy gentlemen belonging to the nobility, meddling in ecclesial issues. On the other hand, some of his priests practiced concubinage and were a source of scandal. Immense pain were these things in his heart, pain that he kept alive for many years and that was increased by the hostility of certain priests and the circles of power that supported them.

In the following years, thanks to the efforts for the reform of his diocese, the fruits began to bear fruit. Even so, he came to present his resignation up to five times, before five different pontiffs. Saint Hugo had reasons for such requests, but it was also undeniable that the desire to devote himself to study and prayer was still intact within him. All in all, he was able to maintain a continuous bond with monastic life – he even contributed to the foundation of the Order of the Carthusians – while his heart burned more and more with love for those whom God had trusted.

Forgetting the goods of this world

For the poor of Grenoble he even sold his carriage, his horses and his mules, in order to help them with the money obtained. With San Hugo there was no sumptuousness or superfluous things. Goods were free gifts from God and belonged to Him. After running out of the means to get around, he dedicated himself to touring his diocese on foot, parish by parish, church by church, town by town.

In the stage before his death he lost his memory, and many believed that it was a kind of relief that God granted him to leave behind so much fatigue. Although he no longer recognized his relatives or his friends, he kept smiling and was able to devote himself to his spiritual activities. The only things he remembered were the psalms, the Hail Mary and the Our Father. His last days were filled with those prayers.

Saint Hugh died at the age of almost 80, on April 1, 1132. Pope Innocent II declared him a saint two years after his death.

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