MERCY SUNDAY I present a little known saint, who is a great example of Our Holy Father's insistence on care of the poor, the wretched, the handicapped, etc. One wonders what would have happened to him if he had not been placed in the care of the monks who saw his brilliance and cultivated his gifts.
An interesting BENEDICTINE saint, not much spoken about in our modern world, but one who is an inspiration to all who suffer disabilities, is BLESSED HERMAN the CRIPPLE. He was crippled by a paralytic disease from early childhood. Born July 18, 1013 with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy and possibly spina bifida, was a son of the earl of Altshausen. Based on the evidence, however, more recent scholarship indicates Bl.Hermann possibly had either amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) or spinal muscular atrophy. As a result, he had great difficulty moving and could hardly speak.
At the age of seven, he was placed in the Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau (an island on Lake Constance, Germany) in the care of Abbot Berno by his parents who could no longer look after him. He grew up in the monastery, learning from the monks and developing a keen interest in both theology and the world around him.
Abbot Berno himself was famous as orator, poet, philosopher, and musician and most probably had a great influence on Bl. Herman and recognizing the child's intelligence, cultivated those gifts. Educated in the school of St. Gall, Berno visited Rome with the Emperor Henry II, and upon his return introduced many reforms in the liturgical music of his native land.
Bl. Hermann contributed to all four arts of the quadrivium (mathmatics, geometry, music, and astronomy). He wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry and arithmetic and astronomical treatises. He wrote instructions for the construction of an astrolabe, and ancient astronomical computer for solving problems related to time and the position of the sun and stars (at the time a very novel device in Western Europe). He built musical instruments as well.
As a historian, he wrote a detailed chronicle from the birth of Christ to his own present day, ordering them after the reckoning of the Christian era. One of his disciples Berthold of Reichenau continued it.
At twenty, Bl. Hermann was professed as a Benedictine monk, spending the rest of his life in the monastery. He was literate in several languages, including Arabic, Greek and Latin and was also a famed religious poet. When he went blind in later life, he began writing hymns, the best known are the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) and Alma Redemptoris Mater.
In his day, the heroic cripple who achieved learning and holiness was called ‘The Wonder of His Age’.Bl. Herman died in the monastery on September 24, 1054, aged 40. He was beatified in 1863.
In our day, he is an example of why those born with disabilities should be nurtured, cultivating whatever gifts they may possess.