Gregory of Tours (539-594):
Life of St. Gall
From Lives of the Fathers: Chap.
St. Gall was a servant of God from his youth up, loving the Lord
with his whole heart, and he loved what he knew to be beloved
by God. His father was named Georgius and his mother Leocadia
a descendant of Vectius Epagatus who, as the history of Eusebius
relates, was a martyr at Lyons. They belonged among the leading
senators so that no family could be found in the Gauls better
born or nobler. And although Gall's father wished to ask for a
certain senator's daughter for him, he took a single attendant
and went to the monastery at Cournon, six miles from Clermont,
and besought the abbot to consent to give him the tonsure. The
abbot noticed the good sense and fine bearing of the youth and
inquired his name, his family and native place. He replied that
he was called Gal] and was a citizen of Auvergne, a son of the
senator Georgius. When the abbot learned that he belonged to one
of the first families he said: " My son, what you wish is
good, but you must first bring it to your father's attention and
if he gives his consent, I will do what you ask." Then the
abbot sent messengers in regard to this matter to his father,
asking what he wished to be done with the youth. The father was
a little disappointed, but said: "He is my oldest son and
I therefore wished him to marry, but if the Lord deigns to receive
him into His service, let His will rather than mine be done."
And he added: "Consent to the child's request which he made
by God's inspiration."
The abbot on receiving this message made him a clerk. He was very
chaste and as if a]ready old he had no wicked desires: he refrained
from a young man's mirth; he had a voice wonderfully sweet and
melodious; he devoted himself constantly to reading; he took pleasure
in fasting and was very abstemious. When the blessed bishop Quintian
came to this monastery and heard him sing, he did not allow him
to stay there any longer, but took him to the city and, like the
heavenly father, fed him on the sweetness of the spirit. On his
father's death, when his voice was improving day by day and he
was a great favorite among the people, they reported this to king
Theodoric, who at once sent for him and showed him such affection
that he loved him more than his own son; he was loved by the queen
with a similar love, not only or his beautiful voice, but also
for his chastity. At that time king Theodoric had taken many clerks
from Auvergne whom he ordered to serve God in the church at Trèves;
but he never allowed the blessed Gall to be separated from him.
So it came that when the king went to Cologne, he went with him.
There was there a heathen temple full of various articles of worship
where the neighboring barbarians used to make offerings and stuff
themselves with food and drink until they vomited; there also
they worshipped images as god, and carved limbs in wood, each
one the limb in which he had suffered pain. When the holy Gall
heard of this, he hastened to the place with only one clerk when
none of the benighted pagans was present, and set it on fire.
And they saw the smoke of the fire rolling up to the sky and searched
for the one who had set it, and found him and pursued him sword
in and. He fled and took refuge in the king's court. But when
the king had learned from the pagans' threats what had been one,
he pacified them with agreeable words and so calmed their furious
rage. The blessed man would often weep in telling this story,
and say: "Unhappy me that I did not stand my ground and let
my life be ended in this affair." [note: Gall would
in that case have been a martyr with all a martyr's advantages.
He does not regret running away as an act of prudence, but as
an injudicious act spiritually speaking. Cf. Marignan, Le
culte des saints sous les Mérovingiens (Paris, 1899),
ch. I.] He was deacon at the time
Later when the blessed bishop Quintian passed from this world
by God's command, the holy Gall was living in Clermont, and the
people of the city assembled at the house of the priest Inpetratus,
Gall's uncle on his mother's side, lamenting at the bishop's death
and asking who should be appointed in his place. After long debate
they returned each to his own house. On their departure the holy
Gall called one of the clerks and said, the holy spirit rushing
into him: "What are these people muttering about? Why are
they running to and fro ? What are they debating? They are wasting
their time," said he. "I am going to be bishop; the
Lord will deign to bestow this honor on me. Now when you hear
that I am returning from the king's presence, take my predecessor's
horse with the saddle on him and come and bring him to me. If
you refuse to obey me, take care you are not sorry for it later."
As he said this, he was lying on his bed. The clerk was angry
at him and abused him and struck him on the side, breaking the
bed at the same time, and went off in a rage. On his departure
the priest Inpetratus said to the blessed Gall: "My son,
hear my advice: don't waste a minute, but go to the king and tell
him what has happened here, and if the Lord inspires him to bestow
this holy office on you, I shall give thanks to God; otherwise
you can at least recommend yourself to the man who is appointed."
He went and reported to the king what had happened....
And the clerks of Clermont, with the choice of the foolish, went
to the king with many gifts. Even then that seed of iniquity had
begun to germinate, that bishoprics were sold by kings and bought
by the clerks. Then they heard from the king that they were going
to have St. Gall as bishop. He was ordained priest and the king
gave orders to invite the citizens to a feast at the expense of
the treasury and to make merry over the promotion of Gall the
future bishop. This was done. He was in the habit of telling that
he had given no more for the office of bishop than a third of
a gold piece which he had given to the cook who prepared the feast.
Then the king appointed two bishops to accompany him to Clermont.
And the clerk, Viventius by name, who had struck him on the side
when he was in bed, hastened to meet the bishop according to his
command, but not without great shame, and he presented himself
and the horse which Gall had ordered. When they had gone into
the bath together, Gall gently reproached him for the pain in
his side which he had incurred from the contemptuous violence
of the clerk, and he caused him great shame, not in a spirit of
anger, however, but only delighting in a pious joke. After that
he was received into the city with much singing and was ordained
bishop in his own church.
Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, trans. Ernest
Brehaut (extended selections), Records of Civilization 2, (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1916), 260-62
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