When Odo, a cleric at Tours, read The Rule of St. Benedict, he was stunned. Judging that his Christian life did not measure up to Benedict’s standard, he determined to become a monk. In 909, Odo went to Beaume, a reformed monastery where the rule was strictly observed, and Abbot Berno received him into the community.
That same year Berno started a new monastery at Cluny in Burgundy. He established it on the pattern of Beaume, insisting on a rigorous conformance to the Benedictine rule. In 927, St. Odo succeeded Berno as Cluny’s abbot and spread its influence to monasteries all over Europe. He encouraged lax monasteries to return to the original pattern of the Benedictine rule of prayer, manual labor, and community life under the direction of a spiritual father. Under his influence, monasteries chose more worthy abbots, cultivated a more committed spiritual life in the monks, and restored the solemnity of daily worship. Thus the saint helped lay the foundation for a renewal movement that in two centuries reformed more than a thousand monastic communities.
And in the following passage, John of Salerno, Odo’s biographer, says he combined his power with wry humor to compel members of his entourage to behave charitably:
The blind and the lame, Odo said, would be the doorkeepers of heaven. Therefore no one ought to drive them away from his house, so that in the future they should not shut the doors of heaven against him. So if one of our servants, not being able to put up with their shameless begging, replied sharply to them or denied them access to the door of our tent, Odo at once rebuked him with threats. Then in the servant’s presence he used to call the poor man and command him, saying, “When this man comes to the gate of heaven, pay him back in the same way.” He said this to frighten the servants, so that they should not act in this way again, and that he might teach them to love charity.
At the pope’s request, Odo traveled to Rome three times to pacify relations between Hugh, king of Italy and Alberic, called the Patrician of the Romans. On each of these trips Odo took the opportunity to introduce the Cluniac reform to monasteries en route.
Perhaps Odo’s notion was not fictitious—that the poor we refuse or people we snub will be our greeters after death. Imagine that the person meeting us at heaven’s gate will be the person we have offended most, now empowered to welcome or to reject us. That thought should make us hurry to be reconciled with anyone we have hurt.
from Voices of the Saints, by Bert Ghezzi
Image credit: Hugh of Cluny, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and Matilda of Tuscany by unknown artist, unknown date. Public Domain via Wikimedia.