Saturday, November 21, 2009

St Rainier of Pisa

Given the recent celebration of Monaco Day, held on the feast of St Rainier whose name has been that of three Monegasque monarchs over the centuries it is fitting to take a look back at exactly who was the St Rainier that Lords Rainier I, Rainier II and Prince Rainier III was named after. St Rainier of Pisa was born sometime in the 12th Century (possibly 1117). His father was a wealthy merchant and shipowner and young Rainier grew up to be a very sinful and indulgent youth. He loved music and was a wandering mistrel and musician devoted to nothing so much as enjoying himself. He would drink, play music and basically party all night and sleep it off during the day. Typical spoiled rich boy - until someone set an example.

One night Rainier was at a castle playing for a crowd of people at a party; all very joyful and merry. It was then and there that he met a very holy man who happened to passing through. Rainier was drawn to the man and the two had a long conversation. Rainier asked the man to pray for him and the result was a conversion. Rainier burned his fiddle, gave up his high life and became a devout Christian. Who was the man who had such an impact on the sinful youth? We will never know as his name has been lost to history but he gave the first helping hand to Rainier on his path to sainthood. However, Rainier was not completely out of the woods yet. He tried to be more responsible, going into his father's trading business with the Mediterranean sailors and journeying from port to port. He was living a better life but he still was not saintly.

Rainier was so devoted to his work and business that he became a very wealthy man but found no satisfaction in it. One day he noticed that his money had a rotten smell to it and this struck him as a sign from God that he would find no happiness with earthly wealth. He immediately gave his entire fortune to the poor and took up the life of a penitential monk. Rainier went on pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem and other famous shrines and destinations. In 1153 he became the Conventual oblate of the Benedictine abbey of St Andrew in Pisa and later oblate of the abbey of St Vito. He was a noted Bible scholar and could be a good preacher when telling others of his life story. He was also known for healing people with holy water, driving out demons and other miracles. He is the patron saint of Pisa and travellers.

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