July 12: St John Gualbert OSB

Fresco, Florence, Neri di Bicci (1419-91)
St John Gualbert (985 or 995 - 12 July 1073) was the founder of the Vallumbrosan Congregation of the Order.

He was born at Florence, in Italy.

Hoffman's Benedictine Martyrology states that he:

"...was carefully instructed in religion and in various branches of human learning.

Influenced by the example of worldly-minded companions, he indulged in the frivolities to which careless youths de­liver themselves when they cast off the restraints of religion.

His brother,Hugh, was slain by a nobleman and John undertook to avenge his death.

On a Good Friday he met his brother's slayer in a narrow passage and was on the point of killing him, when the latter fell upon his knees, entreating him by the passion of our Lord, to spare his life. This appeal touched John so deeply that he not only spared the man's life, but even offered him his friendship.

Pur­suing his way, he arrived at the monastery of San Miniato, where he felt an im­pulse to spend some time in the church in devout prayer. Shortly after, he called upon the abbot of San Miniato and asked to be admitted among the candidates for the Order.

The abbot dreading the wrath of John's father was reluctant to grant his desire. In the mean time, the father came to the monastery and re­proached his son bitterly for the step he was about to take, but observing that John was steadfast in his resolution, he blessed him and exhorted him to perse­vere.

As a religious, John subdued his body with much fasting and watching. After the abbot's death, he was elected to succeed him, but he resolutely refused to accept the office, and some time after departed from the monastery to seek a place of solitude.

At Vallombrosa he met two hermits who consented to assist him in establishing a Benedictine monastery in that place. The abbess of St. Hilary's near by, furnished the grounds. A monastery and church were built within a short time, and were dedicated by the bishop of Paderborn. John, although but a layman, was elected abbot.

In the course of a few years he founded monasteries at St. Salvi, Moschetta, Passignano, Rozzuolo, and Monte Salario which, together with the motherhouse at Vallombrosa, formed a Con­gregation which was approved by Pope Alexander II in 1070. One of John's leading traits was his great love for the poor, to supply whose needs he would empty all the chests and granaries of his house. Having summoned all the su­periors of the dependent houses, he delivered to them his final instructions and exhortations, devoutly received the last sacraments and expired on this day in 1073 at the age of seventy-four years.

He was canonized by Pope Celestine III in 1193."

His Order united with the Slyvestrines in 1680.

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