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

October 11

St. Gummar, or Gomer, Confessor

THIS saint was a native of Emblehem, a village three miles from Lire or Lier in Brabant. His parents were very rich, and related to king Pepin, and took care he should be instructed in the maxims of our holy religion, and in the practice of piety, though he had not the advantage of a literary education. He was from his cradle meek, affable, exceedingly compassionate, religious and devout. Pepin, then mayor of the palace, and soon after king of France, called him to his court. The saint preserved there his innocence: from a spirit of religion he was punctual and faithful in every duty of his station, and an enemy to vanity, ambition, and dissimulation, (which is almost the soul of a court life,) also to pleasure, luxury and passion: he was rigorous in his fasts and other mortifications, exact and fervent in all his exercises of devotion, and most beneficent and liberal in works of mercy. It was his study, as much as possible, never to give the least trouble or do the least prejudice to any one, and to serve and do good, as much as lay in his power to all men. Pepin, though tainted with ambition, was a lover of uprightness and virtue: and being acquainted with the probity and piety of Gummar, raised him to the highest posts in his court. After some time, this king proposed a match between him and a lady of great birth and fortune named Gwinmary, in Latin Grimnaria. Both parties acquiesced, and the marriage was solemnized. As God does everything for his elect, and the government of the universe is subordinate to the predestination of his saints, so this affair, which seemed unhappy in the eyes of the world, was directed by him to perfect the virtue of his servant, and exalt him to the glory of the saints. Gwinmary was most extravagant and perverse in her humour; haughty, whimsical, and altogether ungovernable. Gummar’s whole life became from that time a train of continual trials, which were so much the sharper as the person from whom he suffered them was the nearer and dearer to him. We are prepared for evil treatment from strangers or enemies, we are animated by it, and we easily conquer ourselves so far as to triumph in it. But when bosom friends, from whom we have reason to expect our greatest comfort and support, seem to have no other satisfaction but continually to wound and persecute us: this is one of the severest of trials, under which it is hard for the firmest mind to maintain its ground without sometimes failing in some of the duties of charity, patience, and meekness.  1
  This was the heroic virtue which Gummar practised for several years, seeking all his comfort and strength in God by the constant exercises of penance and devotion, and endeavouring by all means which Christian prudence and charity could suggest, to inspire his wife with sentiments agreeable to reason and religion. Being called upon by king Pepin to attend him in his wars, first in Lombardy, afterwards in Saxony, and lastly in Aquitain, he was absent eight years. Returning home, he found that his wife had thrown all things into the utmost disorder and confusion; and that scarcely any one among his servants, vassals, or tenants had escaped her unjust oppressions. Gummar made to every one of them full restitution and satisfaction; and, that he might have a place of quiet and retirement, in order to attend his private devotions, built the chapel called Nivesdone. Gwinmary was at length so far overcome by his heroic patience and virtue, as to be ashamed of her past conduct, and to seem penitent. This change, however, was only exterior; and her furious passions, which were only smothered for a time, not healed, broke out again with greater rage than ever. Gummar studied to reclaim her; but at length obtained her consent to embrace a retired penitential life, in order to prepare himself for his passage to eternity. Having built himself a cell by his chapel near his own house, he gave himself up to holy contemplation and to the most perfect practices of penance and mortification. In the mean time, he took all possible care of his wife and family, being solicitous, in the first place, to bring them over to virtuous courses. Herein he so far succeeded by perseverance that his wife became a remarkable penitent. In this manner he served God nine years, and went to receive the recompence of his patience and charity in 774. This village, of which he was lord, was then called Nivesdone, afterwards Ledo and now Lire: from the devotion of the people to this saint, it became a considerable town. The saint’s relics were preserved for several ages in the above-mentioned chapel which he had built, and were visited by the bishop’s order in 1369 and 1406. The saint’s shrine was plundered by the Calvinists; but the relics were saved by Catholics, and are kept in the collegiate church at Lire. He is honored in Brabant with singular veneration, and named on the 11th of October, in the Roman Martyrology. See his life in Surius, Miræus and Gramaye, Antiqu. Antwerp. c. 8. Vite de Santi, t. 2. p. 251.  2