Recently, however, I came across something from history that I think is perhaps the only way around the problem. We know that man needs governing. But what do we do in a situation where no one who wants to govern can be trusted to do so justly?
This: St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor and Benedictine Oblate
Henry II, HR. Emperor from 1014 to 1024, was the son of the Duke of Bavaria and had wanted to be a Benedictine monk. As the son of his father, and therefore the only possible heir to his cousin, Otto III who died in 1002, he was rather stuck with political power and position, instead of having sought it out.
Wikipedia summarizes his rule, saying, "The rule of Henry II is seen as a period of centralized authority throughout the Empire. He consolidated his power by cultivating personal and political ties with the Catholic Church. He greatly expanded the Ottonian dynasty's custom of employing clergy as counter-weights against secular nobles. Through donations to the Church and the establishment of new dioceses, Henry strengthened imperial rule across the Empire and increased control over ecclesiastical affairs. He stressed service to the Church and promoted monastic reform. For his personal holiness and efforts to support the Church, Pope Bl. Eugene III canonized him in 1146, making Henry II the only German monarch to be a saint."
The wonderful Vultus Christi blog, a work of the Benedictine monks of Silverstream Priory in Ireland, gives "An authentic spiritual biography" of this great saint and patron of Benedictine oblates:
Saint Henry | Vultus Christi
The Oblate Emperor
Henry was crowned Emperor in Saint Peter’s Basilica by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014. Henry cherished Benedictine life, spending time in monasteries whenever he could. His greatest joy was to occupy a stall in choir and join the monks in singing the Divine Office. Henry founded monasteries throughout the Empire and endowed them liberally. While detained at Monte Cassino by illness, he was miraculously cured through the intercession of Saint Benedict. Saint Henry’s feast, falling within the Octave of Saint Benedict, is a reminder of the special bond that united him with our glorious Patriarch.
Saint Henry became an oblate of the Abbey of Cluny and then asked to make profession as monk at the Abbey of Saint-Vanne. The abbot received him as a monk, and then ordered him, in the name of obedience, to take his place again on the imperial throne.
I can just imagine the conversation.
"But I don't want to be emperor! I want to be a monk!"
"You are a monk. And as a monk you are under obedience. As your superior, I am giving you your work assignment. Go emperor."
There's something about taking on spiritual works; prayer, sacrifices, fasting and abstinence, that is not generally remembered in the Church. The great spiritual writers have always said that to do these things on your own, without asking permission of a spiritual superior, without, in other words, being under obedience, robs the act of its merit. Moreover, the person doing them, far from benefiting, is in grave danger of succumbing to that worst, most deadly and insidious of all sins: spiritual pride.
With this rule in mind, it becomes very easy to see why our political class has become so foully corrupt. As corrupt, perhaps, as those pagan Roman Emperors of the old days.
It is also easy to see the remedy.
Holy Emperor St. Henry, pray for us.
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