Franciscan Spirit Blog

Saint Who? Rasso of Andechs

The Gentle Giant • ca. 880—d. 953 • Memorial: May 17 and June 1

Page through a history book for epic, decisive events, such as battles, treaties, and technological advances. Besides the major players, consider the others who helped make these things possible, most of whom are not even a footnote. Saint Rasso, for instance. He was six-foot-six, and his gentlemanly bearing was as impressive as his stature. His height and his formidable military skills won him many jousting tournaments. All of this prepared him for his valorous conduct in two battles that established his reputation.

The first was the Battle of Welser Heide in 942, and the other the Battle of Mauerkirchen in 948. Both were fought to defend Bavaria from the marauding Magyars, who would eventually establish Hungary. These barbarians regularly raided rural villages and looted cities, taking with them not only booty but slaves. Both battles were fairly decisive defeats for the Magyars, bringing peace to the Bavarian people for many years.

Not long after the last battle, Rasso laid aside his arms and accompanied Duchess Judith, wife of Duke Henry I of Bavaria and daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Arnulf of Carinthia, on a pilgrimage to both Jerusalem and Rome. When he returned he built the monastery we now call Grafrath (which means “Count Rasso”) and bestowed on it relics he had collected in the Holy Land. Then, having settled his affairs, he became a monk. He lived the last two years of his life at Grafrath in humble servitude. His acts of spiritual generosity reportedly put his battlefield accomplishments to shame.

After his death it was not the relics from the Holy Land but his own that drew the most pilgrims. Between 1444 and 1728, over 12,130 miracles occurred through prayers at his tomb. There were many healings from stomach illness and kidney stones and many healings of children.

Why Saint Rasso deserves our attention and devotion

Many of us want to leave a mark on the world. The desire for everlasting fame has driven men since the time of Homer. Had Saint Rasso merely been a warrior, though, he would be utterly forgotten today. We remember him for the sanctity that made his heavenly intercession before God so effective.

It’s not that earthly accomplishments aren’t important. Rather, we need to ensure that they’re motivated by zeal for the honor and glory of God.

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