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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 8

Appendix to the Life of St. Stephen of Grandmont

SUCH was the fervour and sanctity of the first disciples of St. Stephen of Grandmont, that they were the admiration of the world in the age wherein they lived. Peter, the learned and pious abbot of Celles, calls them angels, and testifies that he placed an extraordinary confidence in their prayers. (Petr. Cellens. ep. 8.) John of Salisbury, a contemporary author, represents them as men who, being raised above the necessities of life, had conquered not only sensuality and avarice, but even nature itself. (Joan. Salisb. Poly. l. 7. c. 23.) Stephen, bishop of Tournay, speaks of them in as high strains. (Steph. Tournac. ep. 2.) Trithemius, Yepez, and Miræus, imagined that St. Stephen made the rule of St. Bennet the basis of his order; and Mabillon at first embraced this opinion, (Mabill. Præf. in part 2. sec. 6. Bened.) but changed it afterwards, (Annal. Bened. l. 64. n. 37 and 112.) proving that this saint neither followed the rule of St. Bennet nor that of St. Austin. Dom Martenne has set this in a much fuller light in his preface to the sixth tome of his great collection. (Amplise Collect. t. 6. n. 20, &c.) Baillet, Helyot, and some others, pretend that St. Stephen never wrote anything himself, and that his rule was compiled by some of his successors from his sayings, and from the discipline which he had established. But some of the very passages to which these critics appeal, suffice to confute them, and Saint Stephen declares himself the author of the written rule both in the prologue, and in several other places, (Regula Grandim. c. 9. 11. 14.) as Mabillon, or rather Martenne, (who was author of this addition to his annals,) takes notice. (Annal. t. 6. l. 74. n. 91.) The rule of this holy founder consists of seventy-five chapters. In a pathetic prologue he puts his disciples in mind, that the rule of rules, and the origin of all monastic rules, is the gospel: they are but streams derived from this source, and in it are all the means of arriving at Christian perfection pointed out. He recommends strict poverty and obedience, as the foundation of a religious life; forbids his religious ever to receive any retributions for their masses, or to open the door of their oratory to secular persons on Sundays or holidays, because on these days they ought to attend their parish churches. He forbids his religious all lawsuits. (Reg. c. 15. See Chatelain, Notes sur le Martyr, p. 378.) He forbids them the use of flesh meat even in time of sickness, and prescribes rigorous fasts, with only one meal a day for a great part of the year. This rule, which was approved by Urban III. in 1186, was mitigated by Pope Innocent IV. in 1247, and again by Clement V. in 1309. It is printed at Rouen in 1672. Besides this rule, certain maxims or instructions of Saint Stephen are extant, and were collected together by his disciples after his death. They were printed at Paris in Latin and French, in 1704. Baillet published a new translation of them in 1707. In them we admire the beauty and fruitfulness of the author’s genius, and still much more the great sentiments of virtue which they contain, especially concerning temptations, vain-glory, ambition, the sweetness of God’s service, and his holy commandments; the obligation without bounds which all men have of loving God, the incomprehensible advantages of praising him, the necessity of continually advancing in fervour, and of continually gathering, by the practice of good works, new flowers, of which the garland of our lives ought to be composed. This useful collection might doubtless have been made much more ample by his disciples. Several other holy maxims and short lessons delivered by him, occur in the most ancient of his lives, entitled, Stephani Dicta et Facta, compiled by the care of St. Stephen de Liciaco. (Martenne, t. 6. p. 1046.)  1