CHURCH FATHERS (75) – Saint Ennodius

– Anastasios

Being a Bishop is certainly a very difficult role. In 1980, Saint John Paul II told the Bishops of Kenya: “Venerable Brothers, the episcopal ministry is a ministry at the service of life, bringing the power of the Resurrection to your people, so that they may ‘walk in newness of life’, so that they may be ever more aware of the Christian life to which they are called by virtue of their Baptism, and so that in their daily lives – in the setting of Africa – they may have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. And because this fellowship is fully achieved only in heaven, your ministry likewise involves a clear proclamation of eternal life. As Successor of Peter in the See of Rome and as your brother in the College of Bishops, I have come to Africa to encourage you in your efforts as pastors of the flock: in the efforts of each of you to offer to Christ a local Church in which unity reigns between the Bishop and the priests, the religious and the laity; in your efforts to enlighten communities with the Gospel and make them vibrant with the life of Christ; in your efforts to bring the dynamic power of the Resurrection into human life and by it to transform and elevate all levels of society.”

These tasks that every Bishop should be aware of are relevant now as they were at the time of Magnus Felix Ennodius (473-521) who was a great Bishop. He was born in Arles (France) and educated in Pavia. He had a great love for eloquence and poetry. After recovering from a grave illness he consecrated his life to God and his wife entered a monastery. Ennodius then became Bishop of Pavia.

About his pastoral ministry it was said: “The glory of suffering for the faith, which his zeal and constancy had procured him, far from serving to make him slothful or remiss in the discharge of his pastoral duties, was on the contrary a spur to him in the more earnest pursuit of virtue, lest by sluggishness he should deprive himself of the advantages which he might seem to have begun to attain. He exerted his zeal in the conversion of souls, his liberality in relieving the poor, and in building and adorning churches, and his piety and devotion in composing sacred poems on the Blessed Virgin, Saint Cyprian, Saint Stephen, Saint Dionysius of Milan, Saint Ambrose, Saint Euphemia, Saint Nazarius, Saint Martin, etc.; on the mysteries of Pentecost and on the Ascension; and on a baptistery adorned with the pictures of several martyrs whose relics were deposited in it. He wrote two new forms of blessing the paschal candle, in which the divine protection on the faithful is implored against winds, storms, and all dangers through the malice of our invisible enemies.

“Saint Ennodius died on the 1st of August, 521, being only forty-eight years old. He is styled a great and glorious confessor by the Popes Nicholas I, and John VIII, and is honoured in the Roman Martyrology on the 17th of July. His works were published by two Jesuits, F. Andrew Scot at Tournay in 1610, and by F. James Sirmond, with notes, at Paris in 1611, and most completely among the works of F. Sirmond, at Paris in 1696.” (Father Alban Butler. “Saint Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, 1866.>).

In the Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Saint Ignatius of Antioch encouraged Christians to follow their Bishops: “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. Whatsoever [the bishop] shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” We are sure that Saint Ennodius was such a Bishop in the sense represented from Saint Ignatius, a Bishop that was not putting his own ideas and idiosyncrasies to please himself, but doing things that are pleasing to God, whose words live in the Tradition, in the Holy Scripture and in the liturgy of Holy Mother Church.

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