17 Sep Saint Lambert, Bishop, Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint Lambert. Ora pro nobis.
St. Lambert was born in Maastricht (now in southern Holland) between 633 and 638.
His father entrusted his education to the holy Bishop St. Theodard, and on that good man being martyred, Lambert was chosen as his successor. A revolution breaking out which overturned the kingdom of Austrasia, Lambert was banished from his See on account of his loyalty to his rightful king. He retired to the monastery of Stavelo, and there obeyed the rule as strictly as the youngest novice. One instance will suffice to show with how perfect a sacrifice of himself he devoted his heart to serve God. As he was rising one night in winter to his private devotions, he happened to let fall his wooden sandal. The abbot, without asking who had caused the noise, gave orders that the offender should go and pray before the cross, which stood before the church door. Lambert, without making any answer, went out as he was, barefoot, and covered only with his hair shirt; and in this condition he prayed, kneeling before the cross, where he was found some hours after. At the sight of the holy Bishop, the Abbot and the monks fell on their knees and asked his pardon. “God forgive you,” said he, “for thinking you stand in need of pardon for this action. As for myself, is it not in cold and nakedness that, according to St. Paul, I am to tame my flesh and to serve God?”
While St. Lambert enjoyed the quiet of holy retirement, he wept to see the greatest part of the churches of France laid waste. In the meantime the political clouds began to break away, and St. Lambert was restored to his See. Trouble of another sort would soon be the occasion of the holy Bishop's martyrdom. (1)
According to tradition, Lambert became a martyr to his defence of marital fidelity. The Bollandists, Mabillon, Valois, Lecointe, Pagi and others held, however, that the saint was killed by Frankish nobles in revenge for the failure of a plundering expedition. Kurth in 1876 critically examined the centuries-old tradition and, documents in hand, proved beyond further doubt that Lambert was martyred because of his defence of the marriage tie. Pepin of Heristal lived for many years in irreproachable wedlock with the pious Plectrude, who bore him two sons. Later he entered into unlawful relations with Alpais, who became the mother of Charles Martel. When no one had the courage to remonstrate with Pepin, Lambert went to his court like another John the Baptist. Alpais, fearing that Pepin might heed the admonitions of the saint, appealed to her brother Dodo. The latter sought revenge and caused Lambert to be assassinated in the chapel of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, built by St. Monulphus at Liège. His heart was pierced by a javelin while he was at the altar. The servants of the martyr placed his remains in a vessel, descended the Meuse to Maestricht, and buried them in the cemetery of St. Peter, in the vault of his parents, Aper and Herisplindis, beneath the walls of Maestricht. Between 714 and 723, St. Hubert exhumed the remains and had them translated to Liège, whither he had transferred, presumably as early as 723, his episcopal see. (3)
Image: Martyrdom of Saint Lambert, part of the diptych of Henri Palude, Circa late 15th century (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff