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The Water of Count Gerald of Aurillac

Elaine Jordan

The Monastery of Cluny had a tremendous influence on restoring Western monasticism to its Benedictine roots. Because of its success, it had a great influence on the whole medieval Church. The first Abbots of Cluny were the source of this spiritual spring. The second of these Abbots, St. Odo, who died in 942, is usually considered the primary font of that influence. This saint had such great admiration for Count Gerald of Aurillac that he wrote a biography of him.

The Count of Aurillac desired to be monk and was restrained by St. Odo, who told him he was called to carry out the duties of his state and offer a good example to all the people under him. He became renowned for his upright, just and charitable behavior.

St. Odo describes how God also deigned to honor His servant St. Gerald with the gift of miracles. Although he refused through humility to lay hands on the sick, he nonetheless frequently cured them. The sick would steal the water with which he had washed his hands, and many would be cured. St. Odo gives examples of this practice, among them the following:
* A certain countryman near the monastery of Solignac had a son who was blind. After lamenting for a long time that his son was oppressed by both blindness and poverty, he was warned in a dream that he should go to the Count Gerald and bathe the eyes of his son with the water in which he had washed his hands. The man believed the dream, and arriving at the castle, made known his desire.

St. Gerald de Aurillac

A statue of St. Gerald stands in the medieval Church of Aurillac
When the Count heard this, he was troubled in mind and told the man he was in error for asking such things. The man, pretending to go away, obtained water from one of the servants. Returning home and invoking the name of Christ, he bathed the blind eyes of his son, who received his sight. And another deed followed this one.

* A certain boy in Aurillac was lame and he was handed over to a smith to learn a trade by which he might live. The smith determined to beg the water of Count Gerald in the same way to heal the boy. Knowing that the man of God was very strict in this matter, he did not dare to ask for the water openly, but got it secretly from the servants. He sprinkled the useless leg with the water, and God immediately restored it to its proper use.

When the report of this fact began to spread abroad, it eventually reached the ears of the Count. Struck by the strangeness of the event, he said it had not come about by his merits but by the faith of those who had given the water to the smith. Then he warned his servants that no one should presume to do such a thing again or he would be severely punished. For he feared nothing more than praise. And while he was kind even to his enemies, he was severe to those who praised him.

* Again, he was staying at a Chapel near the village called Crucicula [Little Cross, Croisette], when a woman, who was one of his servants, was given her sight by the water from his hands. When he learned this, he questioned his man Rabboldus who had given her the water, found out that he had done it, and immediately dismissed him from his service.

After a short time, however, a certain nobleman called Ebbo came to reason with the Count, saying that perhaps he was acting against the will of God when he neglected a grace given from Heaven under the pretext of indiscreet humility and sent away in sadness those whom he might have helped. It was better to give those who asked what they needed, since perhaps this grace was given to him for their sakes. He continued, setting out all his arguments in a very reasonable way.

But Gerald replied that he feared it might rather be a deceit of the Devil wishing to make use of the occasion to deceive him and plotting to deprive him of the reward of any good he had done. At length, convinced by reason and entreaty, he took back Rabboldus, the man he had dismissed, and ordered the woman he had reprimanded to be given twelve coins.

Excerpts from The Life of St. Gerald of Aurillac by St. Odo of Cluny, Nos. 10, 11, 12,
London: Sheed and Ward, 1958, pp. 141-142
Posted April 9, 2011

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