St. Homobonus

(d. 1197)

Some of the Latin baptismal names that ancient Christian parents bestowed on their children were quaint but devout: like “Quodvultdeus,” which means “whatever God wants”; or “Deusdedit,” “God’s gift”; or “Desideratus,” “wanted”.

In the 12th century, there lived in Cremona, Italy, a prosperous merchant who took his newborn son to church and announced to the priest that he wanted him baptized “Homobonus”. The word means “good man”. The parent had chosen the child’s baptismal name with care, and he was determined to teach his son how to live up to its implications.

He fulfilled his plan well. Homobonus grew up well-instructed in the skills of merchandising, but at the same time a lover of honesty, virtue and self-respect. He came to appreciate that his calling as a businessman was a divine calling. God wanted him to be just where He had put him; it was in the marketplace that he would work out his salvation.

Providentially, Homobonus of Cremona found a wife who possessed the same convictions. Others of their mercantile class might trip over the occupational hazards of ambition, dissipation and vain display, but not Mr. and Mrs. H. Their simple life style gave them all the more means and incentive to reach out to the less fortunate. God appreciated this saintly couple’s works of mercy, and even set His stamp of approval on them by working miracles in favor of those whom they assisted; so the author of St. Homobonus’s biography assured us.

Among the worthy merchant’s devotional habits was to go daily to the church of St. Giles to “report” to God on his activities. It was during one of these visits that he came to the end of his life. On November 13,1197, he was attending Mass. At the Gloria he stretched out his arms in the shape of a cross and fell forward into a prostration. Those beside him thought this was just an act of personal penance. But when he failed to stand for the Gospel, they went over to him and found that he had died.

Pope Innocent III canonized this holy Cremonian only two years after his death. No reason to wait longer. Homobonus had obviously lived up to his name. Like Charlie Brown (if we may make such a comparison), he was a GOOD MAN.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those who survive us could say of us in all sincerity, “He was a good man,” or “She was a good woman.” There could be no higher human praise. It would mean that we had, as St. Paul says, shown ourselves “children of God beyond reproach… like the stars in the sky.” It would mean that we had conscientiously lived up to the particular task God assigned to us and not wasted his graces. This would mean that we had fully understood why we were created: to know God and love Him and serve Him in this world so as to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

–Father Robert F. McNamara

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