St. Homobonus is one of my favorite saints. St. Francis, St. Ignatius, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Katherine Drexel and many others are favorites too, but these are all priests or religious. Homobonus was a lay man, a husband and a business man. For these reasons, I relate to him differently than many of the great saints. His life is an inspiration to me, and I hope will be an inspiration for you.
St. Homobonus lived in Cremona, Italy in the twelfth century. His name means Great (bonus) Man (homo), and he lived an incredibly holy life. Homobonus was a cloth merchant, so he was essentially a small business owner with a retail shop. He was a professional that got up and went to work each day. He wasn’t a priest or monk, and his role in his town was not significantly different from most lay people. He was different, though. He chose a life of holiness in all his actions.
Homobonus was known for his humility, honesty, generosity, integrity, and holiness. He always dealt fairly with the people he traded with. His faith and honesty guided his business dealings. When you walk into a store and buy something, how often are you struck by the holiness and honesty of the people you deal with? The people who bought from Homobonus were deeply impressed with his holiness.
Homobonus strived to live his faith, but that doesn’t mean everything was easy. He had struggles like all of us. During his life, there were several famines. He was successful in his business and had wealth so that when famines hit, he had plenty of food. Several times, he gave away all the food he had in his house. Although we can see the holiness of this action, the result was that his family didn’t have any food. He was committed to charity, but his wife felt that they should save their food to take care of themselves first. This disagreement led to a number of significant arguments between the couple. Animosity developed between Homobonus and his wife.
Does this sound like what you expect from a saint? Homobonus fought with his wife. They could not agree about his desire for charity. He didn’t give up. He continued to help others despite the pain and anger it caused between he and his wife. Then God stepped in and helped. During a particularly bad famine, Homobonus gave every bit of food in his pantry to the poor while his wife was out. When she returned, she went to the pantry to work on dinner and found it overflowing with the best, freshest and most amazing food she had ever seen. She went to one of the servants and asked where the food came from, and he answered that he had just helped Homobonus give out the last bit of food in the house. She showed the pantry to the servant and he was amazed because he knew the pantry had been emptied.
Homobonus’ wife understood this to be a miracle and immediately changed her view. She resolved to stand behind her husband’s charity no matter the consequences. She would trust in God just as her husband had.
The couple had other struggles. They were childless and could not have children. They opened their home to orphans and raised a number of children that needed them.
Homobonus lived at a time when the Church was in turmoil. He was part of a movement in the Church by the laity to renew the Church. They pursued obedience to the Church and improved holiness. He led by example, attending daily Mass, and living his faith in all of his actions.
Homobonus died during Mass while singing the Gloria. His last breath was spent praising God.
After his death, the town rose up and venerated him. Numerous miracles were reported as a result of his intercession. The town began appealing to Rome to make Homobonus a saint. It took only 14 months for the Church to officially recognize Homobonus as a saint (by comparison, when St. Francis of Assisi died three decades later, his canonization process took 22 months).
Although I strive to follow Christ and emulate Him, I can’t imagine my neighbors and coworkers rising up to appeal to the Vatican to name me a saint if I died today. That is the goal, though. This is not a goal to receive acclaim and honor. It is a goal that we will be so conformed to Jesus that people are drawn to Him through us. We are made to love God, and to share our love of God with others.
How many business owners, shopkeepers, and other professionals that you see every day would cause an entire town to rise up to ask the Vatican to name them a saint? Do you live your life with humility, honesty, generosity, integrity and holiness in everything you do just Homobonus did?