Today, 10 Oct 2011, the Church reminds us of a remarkable man of God, St Ghislain (or St Gislenus) of Belgium. He died in 680 concluding a long life of fidelty to God’s will, after having a major influence for good.
Responding to God’s call upon his life, St Ghislain became a hermit in the forest of Hainault, Belgium. As he sought God in prayer, manual labour and physical hardships others were attracted to this way of life. In the lives of the Saints so often it seems that people have a hunger to dedicate their lives to God, but they don’t really know how to go about doing it. Then as soon as God raises up someone like St Ghislain they are able to suddenly see how to do it, and they flock to join him. A monastery dedicated to St Peter and St Paul grew up around St Ghislain’s faithful ‘yes’ to God, and he grew into the role of abbot. Faithfully he served his fellow religious for 30 years.
Sometimes we might think that holiness occurs in a vacuum. That would be far from the truth. More commonly the Saints we honour are the tip of an iceberg of a community or region of really holy people. Saints tend to occur in clusters, think of the flowering of holiness around Paris in the time of St Francis de Sales, around Rome in the time of St Philip Neri, in the family of St Therese of Lisieux, in the number of saints and blesseds in the acquaintance of St John Bosco and the early members of his Salesian order. Many more clusters could be listed. Even Blessed Pope John Paul the Great stands at the pinnacle of an extraordinary band of modern Polish Saints.
St Ghislain was no different. The good Lord placed him at the right place at the right time to assist St Waldetrudis and St Aldegonis with the encouragement and guidance needed to found their respective convents. Convents whose holy influence extended for centuries. St Lambert, St Valerius and St Amand are all mentioned in connection with his life.
Even though his name and virtues might be obscure for the majority of believers outside of Belgium, St Ghislain is still rejoicing in God’s presence in Heaven and is ever ready to intercede on behalf of those seeking to respond wholeheartedly to God’s call upon their lives. If you are in need of wise counsel or encouragement, ask him to pray for you.
St Ghislain, pray for us.