Sermon: Hugh of Lincoln

We know that within the icons and paintings of Saints, there are always clues as to who is being represented. Matthew is often depicted holding or writing in a book (his Gospel) and a winged man is generally seen with him. When it comes to our saint for the day, Hugh of Lincoln, you will often see him with a goose and holding up a chalice with the child Jesus inside.

It is told that on the day of his consecration, a wild goose arrived at his home and killed all the other geese on the lake. When anyone tried to approach, the goose would attack, but when Hugh arrived the following day, the goose went immediately up to him and followed him all over, even remaining in Hugh’s room at night to fight off any intruders. When Hugh was away, the goose would return to the lake, but a day or so before Hugh would return, the goose would fly around in great circles, joyously honking. When Hugh died, the goose refused to eat and would die a short time later.

The chalice with the child Jesus appeared to a man who was a critic of Hugh who had come to Lincoln to chastise the bishop, however, while attending a Mass that Hugh was celebrating, the man saw the child Jesus in the chalice when Hugh elevated it. Needless to say, the man was no longer a critic of Hugh.

The life of the saint began when he, at the age of fifteen, moved into a religious house. There he received his training and four years later was ordained a deacon. At the age of twenty-three, he visited a Carthusian monastery and was immediately taken by the way of life. Receiving permission from his superiors, he joined the order, being ordained a priest a few years later. In June of 1186, unbeknownst to him that he was even being considered, Hugh was elected Bishop of Lincoln. He said, no thank you. They held another election and he was elected again. He again said, no thank you, but he was eventually persuaded to accept the position, but in doing so, he did not renounce his vows as a Carthusian and maintained his simple life.

At the time, the Diocese of Lincoln was the largest in the Roman Catholic Church, so there was a great deal of responsibility to the people and the crown, who he got along with at times, but at other times clashed. He was a great defender of the Jews who lived in his diocese, of the poor, children, and of women (he once said, “No man was ever allowed to be called the father of God, but a woman was granted the privilege of being God’s mother.”)

His funeral procession had three archbishops, fourteen bishops, one hundred abbots of the surrounding monasteries, and the Prince of Wales. The kings of England and the King of Scotland were among those who carried his casket.

An early biographer writes, “A more self-denying, earnest, energetic, and fearless Bishop has seldom, if ever, ruled the diocese of Lincoln, or any other diocese whatever…. Hugh was the rare man, who was a match, and more than a match for them all (the monarchs and archbishops). Once sure of the straight path of duty, no earthly influence, or fear, or power, could stop him: he never bated an inch even to such opponents; and while fighting and beating them, still, all the while, won and retained their admiration and reverence.” (The Life of St. Hugh of Lincoln, p.xx-xxi.)

Hugh of Lincoln: he died on this day in the year 1200.

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