SAINT HENRY II (972-1024), Holy Roman Emperor – Patron saint of the disabled, childless couples and Bamberg, Germany.
Today, the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Henry II, a German king who led and defended Europe’s Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the second millennium.
Henry was born on May 6, 972 to Duke Henry of Bavaria and Princess Gisela of Burgundy. During his youth, Henry received both an education and spiritual guidance from the cathedral school under Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg.
Henry was an intelligent and devout student, schooled in piety and charity, and, for a period of time, he considered the priesthood as a lifetime vocation. But it was ultimately in the political realm, not the Church, that he would seek to exercise these virtues. He took on his father’s position as duke of Bavaria in the year 995, and, just seven years later, in 1002, the Church supported his accession to the throne as king of Germany.
As king, Henry encouraged the German bishops to reform the practices of the Church in accordance with Canon Law. During the same period, he is said to have brought a peaceful end to a revolt in his territory, which ended with the king mercifully pardoning the rebels. Henry also acted decisively, but not harshly, against an Italian nobleman who set himself up as a rival king.
In 1014, King Henry journeyed to Rome where Pope Benedict VIII formally crowned him as head of the Holy Roman Empire. The new emperor demonstrated his loyalty to the Pope by confirming Benedict VIII’s authority over the city of Rome. Henry made his journey from Rome back to Germany into a pilgrimage of sorts, stopping at various monasteries along the way.
Henry became a great patron of churches and monasteries, donating so much of his wealth to them that his relatives complained that he was behaving irresponsibly. But Henry was far from irresponsible, as his leadership of the Western Empire in both war and peace demonstrated. The emperor was also a great patron of the poor, making enormous contributions for their relief.
The emperor’s extraordinary generosity was made possible in part by his lack of an heir. He was married to Cunegundes of Luxembourg while still duke of Bavaria, but the two had no children – due to the fact that she took a private vow of virginity, and to which it is said Henry agreed to honor.
For the last several years of his life, in addition to his imperial responsibilities, Henry had to deal with serious illnesses, along with an additional ailment that crippled his left leg. He found support in prayer during these trials, and seriously considered resigning his imperial leadership in order to become a monk, but was advised to keep his place in the world where he could do more good for people and the advancement of God’s Kingdom as emperor.
Holy Roman Emperor Henry II died on July 13, 1024 at Pfalz Grona, near Göttingen, Saxony (in modern Germany). He was canonized a saint by Blessed Pope Eugene III in 1146, and Saint Henry’s remains lay next to his wife’s, Saint Cunegundes, in the Bamberg Cathedral in Bamberg, Germany.
We commemorate his feastday on July 13.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, bavaria-info.com and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Henry II)
“Lord, You filled Saint Henry with Your Love and raised him from the cares of an earthly kingdom to eternal happiness in Heaven. In the midst of the changes of this world, may his prayers keep us free from sin and help us on our way toward You.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”