Tuesday, November 13, 2012

St. Brice November 13

St. Britius or Brice was one of those medieval saints whose name was preserved in the Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer. It is not hard to understand: bad boy makes good stories captured the medieval imagination and even the most heartless Reformers could not easily abolish these from Christian hearts.

St. Brice (Britius) was born about the year 370 in Touraine, France. He was brought up by St. Martin of Tours. Brice's youth and early adult life were difficult. Today he might be considered to have been a juvenile delinquent. He treated his superior, St. Martin, with insolence, insult and contempt. The only reason Martin didn't send him away was that he felt he may have been a trial sent by God.

According to Sulpicious Severus, St. Martin's biographer, Martin foresaw that his delinquent cleric would some day be his successor. It is said that during one of their altercations, St. Martin told Brice that he would one day be his successor. He also foretold that he would suffer greatly in this office. Brice's response was to say that the old man was out of his mind.

When Brice did finally repent and asked Martin's forgiveness it is said that St. Martin readily forgave him saying, "if Christ could tolerate Judas, surely I can put up with Brice.

St. Martin died in 397 and Brice was elected to fill his position. He continued to be a disagreeable character and several attempts were made to get rid of him. It wasn't until he had been bishop for about 33 years that he was accused of an immoral act with a woman and successfully removed from office. He was replaced by Justinian and then Armentius. Brice protested his innocence to the pope and is said to have cleared himself by a miracle. We also find in St. Gregory of Tours writings that he had been falsely accused.

Brice remained in exile for seven years and lived a very reformed life. When Armentius died he was re-appointed to the Diocese of Tours. He lived several more years and is said to have made amends for his past mistakes by such an exemplary life of holiness that when he died in 444, the people revered him as a saint and miracles occurred because of his intercession.

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