Q: I think more people would celebrate the feast of St. Cloud, our diocesan patron, on Sept. 7, if they knew more about him. Can you please give us something about his life?
A: To celebrate St. Cloud is to celebrate the meaning of “vocation.”
What makes a vocation to consecrated life or ordained ministry in the church? A divine email with one’s name on it? The human circumstances of one’s life in this world? All of the above? Some of both seems to have made Cloud into a holy hermit and dedicated priest in the sixth century.
St. Cloud was the grandson of Clovis, first Christian king of the Franks. He and his two brothers — Theobald, 10 years old, and Gunther, 7 years old — were raised by St. Clotilda, their grandmother. Cloud’s uncle Childebert acted as regent for them. But Theobald and Gunther were murdered by their uncle Clotaire in a plot with Childebert to seize the throne. Clodoald (St. Cloud), age 8, was saved by being sent to Provence. Later Cloud became a hermit and made no attempt to claim the throne when he came of age.
As Alban Butler says, “He had seen enough of the politics of the world.” Maybe Cloud had come to see the surpassing glory of the reign of God in this world.
Serving a greater king
In Cloud’s life as a priest and holy hermit, there is a remarkable coming together of God’s call and human response. Is it so strange that Cloud renounced royal power when seeking it would have brought him certain death? But it’s precisely there, in the untidy circumstances of his human life, that Cloud heard and accepted God’s call to serve a greater king, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
Sometimes God’s call to us comes plain and unadorned or even in tattered packaging rather than in glitzy wrapping. St. Cloud is proof of that. He put away the robes of nobility at age 20 to put on the coarse garment of a hermit and the apron of Christian service as a humble priest and friend of the needy. Cloud came to know that to serve Jesus Christ in his lowly ones is to reign with him, to eat and drink at the holy table here and in his kingdom.
In this, St. Cloud knew the surpassing power of Christ’s paschal mystery, his saving death and resurrection. Five times in St. John’s Gospel Jesus tells us that he lays down his life for us. That life is taken up again in you and me as we die and rise with Christ: daily, at our death, and on the last day.
By faith and baptism and the eucharistic food that we receive, the life of Jesus that he laid down for us flows into us and makes us God’s children with him and in him. This is the saving mystery that St. Cloud made his own. This mystery, in which we celebrate Jesus’ rising to new life and our own, celebrates our being raised from natural worldly life into new life as God’s children.
Like St. Cloud, and like all who have formed this diocese under his patronage for 127 years, we come to the eucharistic table again and again to celebrate our dignity as God’s children at this banquet spread before us. Here we give thanks again and again that Jesus laid down his life for us and made us daughters and sons of God in his kingdom.
Recommit to our vocation
Yet, the Eucharist is not just a time for celebration. It is also a time of commitment, of rededication, to build up the body of Christ in our own vocation. Having shared again in the life of Jesus at the altar, we are to go forth to be the source of new life for this world. As we do, people will come to know Jesus. And coming to know Jesus, they will share deeply in Jesus’ life in the family of God.
St. John Paul II reminded us in his encyclical “Redemptor Hominis” that the people of God are “the community of the disciples, each of whom in a different way — at times very consciously, at other times not very consciously and very inconsistently — is following Christ.”
Indeed, this is a great mystery and a great privilege, one we share with St. Cloud and with all the people of our diocese.
In the prayer vigil with young people in Krakow on July 30, Pope Francis declared: “God expects something from you, God wants something from you. God hopes in you.”
Such was God’s call to St. Cloud and he accepted it. Isn’t God asking our young Catholics for generous service in ordained ministry and consecrated life? Who knows how many choices for these vocations matured in the hearts of those gathered for World Youth Day?
St. Cloud, pray for them and for us!
Benedictine Father Michael Kwatera, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, serves as the abbey’s director of liturgy. Please send your questions on liturgy to him at email@example.com or at St. John’s Abbey, P.O. Box 2015, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015.