|St. Corbinian's Bear by Ragan Black ©|
The Bear could not be more pleased with this storybook depiction of St. Corbinian's Bear. He looks chastened as he carries the saint's baggage, which, of course, includes a mug for fine Korbinian's dopplebock. It looks like the saint did not want him to forget the cause for his penance: a horseshoe has been tied to the bundle.
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St. Corbinian was an 8th century Frank who was renowned for his holiness. While traveling to Rome on a pilgrimage in honor of St. Peter, a bear ate his pack horse. The saint commanded the bear to accept the load in its stead, which it miraculously did. Upon arrival in Rome, the saint released the bear and it lumbered off into the forest.
Pope Gregory II recognized in St. Corbinian just the kind of man to evangelize the Germans. (After all, he had tamed a bear!) So the saint was dispatched to the wilds of Bavaria. The local warlord was in an incestuous marriage, which St. Corbinian condemned. This enraged the warlord's wife, who sought the holy bishop's life. (That bear would have come in handy.) While St. Corbinian was in exile, the warlord was killed in battle and his wicked wife was carried off, never to be heard from again.
St. Corbinian returned and established a Benedictine monastery. He died in 730, and his feast day is September 8.
The bear appeared on Pope Benedict's coat of arms. He saw in the figure of the burdened bear his own acceptance of onerous ecclesiastical duties. Like St. Corbinian's bear, he was permitted to lay his burdens down.
St. Corbinian, you were persecuted for upholding the Catholic ideal of marriage. Encourage those who do the same in our day. You tamed a bear and caused him to do penance. Help us through your prayers to tame our passions and patiently bear burdens God sends us. Amen.