St Galdinus

Archbishop of Milan and Confessor (entered heaven on this day 1176)

Dear Aldo,

Somewhere in the world spring is happening.  But not here in this miserable cubicle.  Here it’s always the same.  The same artificial light, the same drab carpet-covered dividers, the same hum of the computer, the same, the same, the same… Your old uncle is feeling a bit down today.  In fact, I was just thinking about death.  Do you, who are the most philosophical of my nephews, ever think of your death?  I imagine you do. It is not morbid to do so.  It’s very practical, in fact.  We are all going to die at some point.  Why let the fact take you by surprise?  So I was thinking about good ways to die, and it occurred to me that today’s saint found, perhaps, the best way of all.

Galdinus was born to the Vavassors family in Milan (one of the highest of the high aristocratic families in northern Italy).  He was talented and good humored and intelligent.  From an early age he showed an interest in the priesthood, and after his studies was ordained and taken under the Archbishop’s wing – he was made Chancellor of the important diocese.  He fulfilled his duties conscientiously and creatively – and such was no small task in his days.  At the time Europe was in the throes of a schism incited by the antics of the famed Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.  He elevated an anti-pope, and half of the territories of the continent (those under his rule) supported him.  Not Milan, however.  Milan stayed faithful to the Pope and resisted the shenanigans of the proud Emperor.  So Frederick laid siege to the city.  Ten months later his army overran the city and razed it entirely to the ground.  They filled in the moats and streams and ditches, reduced the walls and houses to mere rubble on a level with the ground, and even sowed salt into the soil, just to insure that this “rebellious” city would rise no more.

Of course, such monstrous pride always backfires.  And it did in this case too.  All the cities and towns of Lombardy (northern Italy) united to rebuild their beloved capital, and broke their allegiance to the megalomaniacal war lord.  Eventually he saw the error of his ways and was reconciled with the Pope.

In the meantime, however, the old archbishop of Milan had died (he died during the siege) and the holy Chancellor, Galdinus, was appointed in his place, and given the additional task of serving as papal legate to Lombardy.  So the saint had his hands full.  Not only did he oversee the rebuilding of the city and the reconciliation of schismatics and heretics who had been egged on by Frederick, but he had to look after the poor – and after wars and sieges and the razing of cities there are always plenty of poor.  Galdinus was tireless in his charity, both physical and spiritual.  He became the motor behind both Lombardy’s recovery and the repentance of Barbarossa.

His tirelessness kept him in the forefront of evangelizing efforts until the day he died.  That happened during Mass.  He mounted the pulpit, proclaimed the Gospel, and gave a rousing sermon.  He didn’t finish it, however.  In the middle of it he fainted.  A few minutes later, right there in the pulpit, he passed away.

We all have to go some day.  If I had to choose how, I think I would like to follow in Galdinus’s footsteps.  If your last words are an unfinished sermon about the love of God, I’m sure you’d get a quick entry through the Pearly Gates – if only so you could finish the sermon.

Your loving uncle,


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