St. Maurilius was born in 336 to a profoundly Christian family near Milan. During his lifetime, he became known for his role in the early history of the church of France and the Christianization of Gaul.
As a young man, Maurilius was drawn to his faith. He studied closely under St. Martin of Tours who, at the time, had a monastery in Milan. After the Arians drove St. Martin away from Milan, Maurilius felt he had lost his teacher.
Maurilius soon found himself as cantor for St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. However, after Maurilius' father passed away, he left Milan to rejoin St. Martin in Tours. While there, Maurilius was ordained a priest by the Apostle of Gaul.
Maurilius was dedicated fervently to the salvation of souls. During his mission, he was led to a pagan temple near Angers. Maurilius, with his prayers, brought fire down from heaven to destroy the site. Afterwards, he had a church and a monastery built in that location. Many souls traveled to pray with Maurilius in the new monastery. During this time, Maurilius converted many pagans by preaching to them and performing miracles on the sick, the blind and the possessed.
Following the bishop of Angers' death, St. Martin of Tours chose Maurilius to succeed him. It is said that on the day of Maurilius' consecration, a white dove flew into the church and rested upon his head.
Maurilius was a great leader and brought many people to the church with his prayerful devotion. His virtues shone even more brightly. He fasted often, and on Lent he rarely left his home. He said, "Lent is a time of solitude, during which we ought to contemplate the passion and death of Christ."
However, a few years after he became bishop, he experienced a great tragedy that nearly caused him to lose his faith.
During one Mass, an ill and dying boy was brought to the church to receive the holy sacrament of Confirmation. Maurilius, not knowing the full seriousness of the request, waited until the end of Mass to see the child. While he waited, the boy died. Maurilius was stricken with great grief and fled Angers without advising anyone. He traveled to England and became a gardener for a nobleman. He was determined to do penance for his sin with the hard labors of gardening during the winter and the summer.
His people at Angers was left confused and inconsolable. They searched near and far for their bishop until they finally found him. He refused to return to Angers, though, for he had lost the keys to the cathedral during his journey on the sea and would not return until he found them.
The messengers, however, had the keys there with them. A fish was cast onto their ship by a wave and in the belly of the fish were the lost keys. They persuaded Maurilius into seeing this as definitive proof that God wanted his return.
He returned to Angers and visited the tomb of the boy who passed away. With tears in his eyes, he begged God to restore the boy's young life. According to St. Gregory of Tours, the boy became resurrected and was given the name Renatus, which means "born again" in French. Maurilius carefully instructed the boy in the Christian life, and Renatus later became the successor to Maurilius as Bishop of Angers.
During his 90th year of life, God prepared Maurilius for his departure on earth. Before his hour of death, Maurilius spoke, "Ponder well, that your souls are bought at a great price: the precious blood of Jesus Christ." Following a short illness, Maurilius passed away in 426.
During his funeral, numerous miracles took place, including two people who were born blind having their sight restored and a paralyzed man regaining use of his limbs after kissing the coffin. His remains now live at the Cathedral of Angers.
St. Maurilius is commonly depicted as a bishop with a fish holding a key or a gardening spade. He is the patron saint of Angers and is often invoked by fishermen and gardeners. His feast day is celebrated on September 13.
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