Monday, July 13, 2015

St. Henry II: Peacemaker and Patron of Childless Couples

Today is the optional memorial of St. Henry II.

Henry II, successively Duke of Bavaria, King of Germany and Emperor, devoted himself to the spread of religion by rebuilding churches and founding monasteries.

 Henry II, son of Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and of Gisella, daughter of Conrad, King of Burgundy, was born in 972. He succeeded his father as Duke of Bavaria, and in 1002, he was elected emperor. In 1014, he went to Rome and received the imperial crown at the hands of Pope Benedict VIII. A patron of the Benedictines, he was miraculously cured by St. Benedict. Tradition states that Henry wanted to be a Benedictine and lived as an Oblate.

He worked hard to establish peace in Europe. However, to defend justice, he had to fight many wars. He was honest in battle and insisted that his armies be honorable too.

Henry married a gentle and loving woman named Cunegund around 998. She, too, has been proclaimed a saint. The couple remained childless. Some sources claim the two lived chastely, but there is no proof of this. Henry and Cunegund were united in their support for the poor and in their generosity toward the Church.

Emperor Henry was one of the best rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. He promoted needed reforms in the monasteries and strengthened the various ecclesiastical sees of his kingdom, built churches and monasteries, and ruled wisely, tempering justice with mercy. He was a man of prayer and was greatly attracted to religious life, but accepted his role as husband and ruler and fulfilled his duties generously.

Henry was just fifty-two when he died in 1024. He was proclaimed a saint by Blessed Eugene III in 1146. Pope St. Pius X named Emperor St. Henry the patron saint of: the childless, Dukes, the handicapped and those rejected by religious orders.

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