Franciscan Spirit Blog

Saint Who? Romanus of Le Mans

The Shy Saint d. 385 • Pre-Congregation Memorial: November 24

We all know people who, if you look at their lives, aren’t “special”—they are not like Mother Teresa or some great preacher—and yet their commitment to letting Christ soak every thread in their life’s fabric is no less profound. They are the quiet saints, the ones who don’t get any attention. One of the best examples of them is St. Romanus of Le Mans.

Romanus was a reserved homebody who would have stayed in Italy if his uncle, St. Julian, bishop of Le Mans, had not requested his assistance. God used Romanus to bless that city’s people in myriad ways, including conversions, the odd resurrection, and other miracles. And like some star athletes who kneel and point heavenward after scoring, the shy young Italian always gave the credit to God.

Within short order St. Julian ordained his nephew to the priesthood, and then he sent him to evangelize along the Gironde River. There Romanus won even more conversions, especially among the sailors. What makes this odd is that Romanus was inarticulate and scatterbrained. However, he also was sincere. The gospel had so convicted his heart, and he spoke of it so lovingly, that often after hearing him people immediately asked for baptism.

When Uncle Julian died, Romanus would simply not leave the tomb, neither day nor night. And so, when St. Thuribe was elected Julian’s successor, he asked Romanus to be the tomb’s caretaker. In time Thuribe too died, and Romanus watched over his grave as well. Because the early Christians desired to be buried near the saints, a cemetery began to mushroom around the sepulchers of these two saints, and Romanus became a member of a minor order called the Fossors (Gravediggers). When Christians died, these brothers performed services not unlike those of undertakers today. They also tended the tombs and ministered to the bereaved.

When he perceived that his own race had run its course, Romanus asked Bishop Pavace leave to go to Rome. The bishop gave it on the condition he come back, which he did. Romanus died shortly thereafter. For many centuries his tomb was the site of significant pilgrimages. Then, like a photograph left too long in the sun, remembrance of him faded.

Why St. Romanus of Le Mans deserves our attention and devotion

Sanctity comes from one thing and one thing only: uncompromising love for God over ourselves and for his will over our own. Our Savior taught us to show that love through our treatment of others. This consists not only in easing their burdens but also in loving them so much that we try to bring them to Christ. St. Romanus is a great example of how to do both very well.

Dearest God, you call us to make disciples. By St. Romanus’s prayers, daily help us discover ways to imitate his example, so that our love will bring many into your kingdom.

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