Saint of the Day: St. Gaudentius, Bishop
The early life of St. Gaudentius is unknown and most of the information about him comes from his own writings. He was probably born in the second half of the 4th century and apparently was educated under St. Philastrius the Bishop of Brescia, Italy and had a very deep knowledge and understanding of theology.
While on pilgrimage to Jerusalem St. Philastrius died and Gaudentius was coerced into accepting the bishopric which he felt himself totally unworthy of. He was consecrated bishop by St. Ambrose and his reputation for holiness and pastoral greatness soon became known. Twenty-one of his sermons still exist today and show his uncanny ability to explain the mysteries of the faith in such a way as to inspire people of all backgrounds and abilities.
In 405 Gaudentius was sent by Pope Innocent I and Emperor Honorius to Constantinople to plead with Emperor Arcadius for the release of St. John Chrysostom. Gaudentius and his two companions were arrested and put in prison. Attempts were made to bribe them into supporting the Arian bishop who had usurped Chrysostom’s place. When they refused, they were put adrift in a rotting vessel which was expected to sink. But they successfully returned to Italy.
The circumstances of Gaudentius’ death are uncertain. One tradition relates that he died in the year 410. He is sometimes confused with another St. Gaudentius, the first bishop of Rimini who is reported to have been martyred by the Arians in 359.
While St. Gaudentius is an obscure figure in modern times, his life has something to teach. He was a person of true humility, but also a man of obedience to his superiors, two virtues not considered very popular today. He accepted the risk of suffering and possible death to save the life of an innocent victim of political oppression. Although few may be called on today actually to risk their lives, his example encourages taking those little risks of loss of popularity and praise in standing up for the innocent victims of oppression in religious communities, at home, at work or at school.