Image: Detail | Head and torso of the recumbent figure of Pope Urban V | photo by Jean-Marc Rosier
Saint of the Day for December 19
(1310 – December 19, 1370)
Blessed Urban V’s Story
In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office. When the cardinals could not find another person among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.
The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice. A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant. He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege. Still, he pressed for reform, and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries. Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309, until shortly after his death.
Urban came close, but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.
As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule. Shortly before his death in 1370, he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother, so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped.
Simplicity in the midst of power and grandeur seems to define this saint, as he reluctantly accepted the papacy, but remained at heart a Benedictine monk. Surroundings need not negatively influence a person.