Here is a saint I, until recently, knew very little about. This is big, considering I love studying the saints. Given his odd name and the fact that there appears to be at least 35 different versions of it in any lives of the saints I’ve checked, I think that’s understandable. Seriously. Look him up. This man went by Chrodegang, Gundigran, Sirigang, and my personal favorite, Ratgang. No joke. Ratgang. Could you imagine going through life with that moniker? I’m just saying.
Moving on. St. Chrodegang is, by all accounts, someone we should get to know a little better, because he was awesome. Born in 712 near Liege (part of present day Belgium), by the time he was 30 he had been made a bishop of Metz (in modern day France), although he was not yet a priest. For that reason alone, he rocks. Apparently, he was extremely smart and also exceptionally holy, possessing a deep concern for the common good as well. He was known to be just and charitable, and it was for all of these that Pepin (no, not that Pepin, not the one they kinda sorta wrote Pippin about, but his grandfather) chose him an ambassador to the Holy See. Chrodegang worked non-stop to establish the papacy more firmly as having definite and legitimate earthly power, not just as a spiritual force. This was before the Holy Roman Empire was established and was therefore not always a given.
While Ratgang spent quite a lot of time working on the Universal Church and the papacy, he never neglected his own diocese. He reformed the diocesan clergy and modeled it on the Rule of St. Benedict (read: harsh; have you read that thing?). This entailed establishing a more communal lifestyle for the priesthood and even writing his own rule for it that is still used to this day. He’s commonly considered the father of the Canons Regular, which are not an order, but a way of religious life, almost like the opposite of a monk. Bear with me. Basically, they are clerics or priests who live in community but who participate in public ministry, as opposed to monks who live apart from the world as much as possible except when it is necessary to tend to someone in need nearby. He introduced the Roman Liturgy and the use of Gregorian Chant in the diocese of Metz. For this work, he was supported by Pepin’s son. You may have heard of him. Charlemange? Yes. That Charlemange. Basically, he worked continuously to reform and to re-energize the clergy and to protect the papacy throughout his life, leaving a lasting legacy of community behind him.
Chrodewhatshisname was a man of learning, who could school just about anyone in Latin and Greek, was generous to a fault (as if that’s possible) with the poor, and who used every once of himself to build up the Church. So, even though he has one of the weirdest names I’ve ever heard, St. Chrodegang is someone who we would do well to study. And, whenever you want to really impress someone, you’ll be able to drop St. Ratgang into the conversation like a bomb, and walk away, knowing whoever you were talking to is most likely thoroughly impressed by your knowledge of obscure saints. Word.