Catholic Faith Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud
WHO WAS SAINT CLOUD?
On September 12, 1891, after Bishop Otto Zardetti consulted with the priests, religious and lay people of the newly created diocese, Pope Leo XIII named St. Cloud the patron saint of the Church of St. Cloud. Since that time our diocesan patron has been honored each year on his feast day, September 7. But who was Saint Cloud?
St. Cloud was born in 522. He was the grandson of Clovis, founder of the Kingdom of the Franks, and his wife St. Clothilde. Following the death of his parents, Cloud and his two brothers were cared for by St. Clothilde, the widowed queen who was their grandmother. Upon his father’s death his uncles sought to seize his father’s throne by plotting the murder of Cloud and his two brothers. They succeed in killing his brothers, but Cloud escaped and sought sanctuary with Remigius (later canonized), the Bishop of Rheims, a short distance from Paris. Cloud grew from childhood into young manhood under the guidance and protection of the holy bishop and his sainted grandmother.
Little is known of Cloud’s life from the age of five until the age of eighteen. He lived most of these years with the Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, and later with St. Severin, a hermit. During these formative years he drew closer to God through the practice of silence and solitude. Although this lifestyle was forced upon him by his uncle’s plot to murder him, Cloud grew to appreciate his separation from the world and a life of silence.
At the age of twenty Cloud left his hermitage and appeared before the Bishop of Paris surrounded by religious civic leaders and members of his royal family. (Remember he was a prince and heir to the throne!) He had clothed himself in royal robes and carried a scissors in one hand and a coarse garment in the other. He stripped off his royal robes and offered the coarse garment to the bishop, who clothed him as a symbol of his preferred spiritual riches. With the scissors the bishop cut Cloud’s long hair. In the silence and solitude of his hermitage Cloud had established priorities in his life. He had learned the difference between true and false pleasures.
After St. Severin the hermit died, Cloud left the neighborhood of Paris to find solitude deeper in the forest. He sought silence to communicate with God more intimately as he prayed for the needs of people. God answered his prayers in a strange sort of way by sending people out to find him in the forest. They came by the hundreds because they learned that Cloud had the gift of healing the bodies and souls of the afflicted. His was a ministry of reconciliation.
Cloud lived eleven years as a hermit. During these years he spent time pouring over the Scriptures. These were not idle years for the prince who fled the royal court. For this reason artists throughout the centuries have portrayed Cloud holding a bible. Although Cloud shared many gifts with others there was one he could not give—the Body and Blood of Christ. People recognized this and many urged Eusebius, Bishop of Paris, to ordain the hermit-prince a priest. The bishop complied, and in 551 Cloud was ordained a priest for the Church of Paris. He became the pastor of a small village, Nogent, near Paris consisting of poor people who fished in the river and farmers who lived off the land. Today the village, now a part of the outer ring of Paris, is called St. Cloud in memory of the man who was its pastor who is buried within the parish church there.
In the village Cloud used his gifts of healing, counseling, preaching and celebrating the Eucharist…distributing his wealth to the poor. As time passed the uncles of Cloud repented of their sin and reconciled themselves with their nephew. They, in turn, restored many castles, estates and lands to him. As a hermit he sold some of these properties and distributed his wealth to the poor. He received permission from Bishop Eustebius to use a small portion of that wealth to build a church for the poor of Nogent. He built his church with his own hands and dedicated it to St. Martin of Tours.
Joy is contagious. People like to be with happy people. Cloud radiated that deep joy of a Christian heart in love with God. Others recognized this in Cloud and came to live near him. In time he became a leader and teacher of those who joined him. In time they formed a religious community, not like a convent or monastery, but an association of men dedicating themselves to love of God and service to God’s people. The last seven years of his life Cloud lived in this community attached to the Church of St. Martin of Tours. His body had literally become worn out by the penances he imposed upon himself; he was old before his time. Surrounded by his community, he died serenely on September 7, 560.
The Shrine of St. Cloud in the Cathedral Church
Our Shrine to St. Cloud is one of the most beautiful shrines in the country with its exquisite carvings. The statue of St. Cloud is a replica of the oldest known statue of St. Cloud—carved in about the seventeenth century. It was given to Bishop Joseph Busch in 1922 when he attended the fourteenth centenary celebration of the birth of St. Cloud in St. Cloud, France. On that occasion he received this exquisitely carved statue of the patron of our Diocese. The hand holding the chalice and the chalice itself are from the original 8th century statue! Encased in the central niche of the shrine is a major relic of St. Cloud (a bone fragment). To the left is a piece of St. Cloud’s clothing. To the right is a relic of the venerated Cross of Christ. Alongside the statue are two wood reliefs—one of St. Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, and one of St. Clothilde, grandmother of St. Cloud.