IN the eleventh century the diocese of Grenoble in southeastern France was notorious for corruption. Simony (the buying and selling of spiritual goods), usury, immorality, and ignorance were rampant in that area. During a Church synod at Avignon in 1o8o, it was decided that a strict bishop should be appointed to correct these abuses; one who could lead both clergy and laity to conform to the laws of the Church. Saint Hugh was unanimously elected to the office.
Hugh was born near Valence in southern France in 1053. After completing his formal education, he accepted a canonry (an official membership in the bishop’s council) in the cathedral of that city. In his early twenties, he met the bishop of Die, who was impressed by Hugh’s virtue and administrative talents and offered him a position in his own diocese. Hugh accepted the offer and later went with the bishop to the synod at Avignon, where he was unexpectedly elected to the see of Grenoble. After being ordained at the age of twenty-seven, he was consecrated bishop by the pope.
For two years, Hugh preached, fasted, and prayed in an effort to correct the many abuses in his diocese. Then, feeling that a new bishop might be more successful, he resigned and entered the novitiate at the Benedictine abbey of Chaise Dieu . He was there only a short time when Pope Gregory VII commanded him to return to his see. Once again in Grenoble, Hugh more effectively fought the evils in his diocese. The poor were his greatest concern; once, during a time of famine, he sold his ornate gold chalice to buy them food. In 1o84, when Saint Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order, was looking for a site for a new monastery, Hugh, guided by a dream, granted him the territory known as “the Chartreuse” which gave the order its name. Hugh is often portrayed in art in connection with the Carthusians; he admired the monks and frequently visited them, happily joining in their exercises and performing the most menial tasks.
Throughout his fifty-two years as bishop of Grenoble, Hugh harbored a desire for contemplative life, but because of the tremendous influence of his holiness, pope after pope refused to release him from office. He died after a long illness, on April 1, 1132, and was canonized two years later by Pope Innocent II.
Information from The Lives of Saints for every day of the year The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 177-178. © 1959 Reverend John P. O’Connell, STD NIHIL OBSTAT; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago May 5 1958. Print.