Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Odo, Abbot of Cluni, Confessor
ABBO, father to this saint, was a nobleman of the first rank. Odo was born at Tours in 879, and was brought up first in the family of Fulk II., count of Anjou, and afterwards in that of William, count of Auvergne, and duke of Aquitain, who some years after, founded the abbey of Cluni. From his childhood the saint was much given to prayer, and piety made him regret the time that he threw away in hunting and other amusements and exercises of a court life. At nineteen years of age he received the tonsure, and was instituted to a canonry in St. Martins church, at Tours, and from that time bade adieu to Virgil and other profane authors, resolving only to read such books as tended to nourish in his heart compunction, devotion, and divine love. However, he spent four years at Paris in completing a course of theological studies. But, upon his return to Tours, he shut himself up in a cell; determined to have no other employment but prayer and meditation upon the holy scriptures. One day, in reading the rule of St. Bennet, he was confounded within himself to see how much his life fell short of the maxims and rules of perfection which are there laid down, and he determined to embrace a monastic state. The count of Anjou, his patron, refusing to consent, Odo spent almost three years in a cell, with one companion, in the assiduous practice of penance and contemplation. At length, resolving that no impediments should any longer withhold him from consecrating himself to God, in a monastic state, he resigned his canonry, and secretly repaired to the monastery of Beaume, in the diocess of Besançon, where the holy abbot, St. Berno, admitted him to the habit, in 909.1 He brought nothing with him but his library, which consisted of about a hundred volumes. The great abbey of Cluni was founded in 910, and committed to the care of St. Berno, who was obliged to govern six other monasteries at the same time. Upon his death, in 927, the bishops of that country established St. Odo abbot of three of those monasteries, namely, Cluni, Massay, and Deols. The first he made his residence; and the reputation of his sanctity, and of the regularity and good discipline which he established, drew thither many illustrious and fervent persons, who sincerely desired to serve God. The saint established there the rule of St. Bennet in great purity, and endeavoured to carry its observance to the highest perfection. It was his usual saying, that no one can be called a monk who is not a true lover, and strict observer of silence, a condition absolutely necessary for interior solitude and the commerce of a soul with God. Silence and the most perfect practices of humility, obedience, and self-denial, were the chief objects of his reformation. Many distant monasteries received his regulations, and subjected themselves to his jurisdiction, so that the congregation of Cluni became most numerous and flourishing; though the severity which he established in it has been long since mitigated. The saint was employed by popes and princes in several difficult public negotiations, in all which he succeeded with admirable piety, address and prudence. Out of devotion to St. Martin, he was desirous to die at Tours, and, being seized with his last sickness, hastened thither, and there happily slept in our Lord on the 18th of November, 942. He was buried in the church of St. Julian; but the Huguenots burnt the greatest part of his remains. St. Odo is named in the Roman Martyrology. See the life of St. Odo, written by John, his disciple, extant in the library of Cluni, published by Marrier, and Duchesne; also in Mabillon, with other pieces relating to the history of this saint, Sæc. 5, Ben.
Note 1. The situation of the monastery of Beaume is frightful, and proper for a penitential retirement. It stands on a narrow spot upon a rock, and nothing presents itself within its view but barren rocks. The way to it lies on the narrow top of two steep rocks of an amazing height. See Martenne and Durand, Voy. Lit. pp. 171, 172. [back]