Today, January 1, we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Waldo (died 1320, also known as Blessed Vivaldo or Blessed Ubaldo). Blessed Waldo is a perfect holy man to begin our yearly devotions, given his simplicity, humility, and unflinching answer to the Lord’s call of service. May we all be so receptive to the Lord this year!
Waldo resided in San Gimignano, in northern Italy. He was known as a humble and holy man, and offered his service to those who found themselves in the Leper hospital near San Gimignano. When a holy Franciscan brother, Bartolo, found himself in the Leper hospital, Blessed Waldo committed himself to the holy man as a servant and disciple, offering his service and comfort for the next twenty years. During that time, it is likely that he, himself, contracted Leprosy. Brother Bartolo instructed Waldo, during their twenty-year friendship, in the ways of the faith, and Waldo eventually joined the Tertiary Order of Saint Francis.
|Interior, Chapel of San Vivaldo|
In 1300, when Bartolo joined the Lord in Heaven, Waldo felt called to withdraw from the world altogether, so that he might deepen his conversation with the Lord and not be distracted by the temptations of the world. Traveling on foot to a large forest, Blessed Waldo was led to a large chestnut tree in which he discovered a hollow large enough to serve as a solitary cell. While there was barely sufficient space to kneel, Waldo took the cell as his own and there spent the remainder of his life in silence and solitude, offering severe penances and contemplating the faith.
Holy legend and church records tell us that that one day in May 1320, the bells of the church from the village adjacent to the forest began to ring of their own accord. As local residents ran to the church seeking to unravel the mystery of the bells, a hunter emerged from the forest. He reported to the assembled crowd that his hounds had circled a hollow chestnut tree nearby and that they began barking excitedly. When the hunter approached the tree to investigate the matter, he found a recluse in the cavity of the tree, dead on his knees. Just as the hunter finished recounting the story, the bells ceased ringing.
|Convent at San Vivaldo|
As we begin the new year, we pause to consider how Blessed Waldo’s behaviors must have seemed very strange to those who encountered him. However, despite the human judgment that likely occurred, this holy man maintained his life, his thoughts, actions, and eyes fixed on the Lord. We might look to Blessed Waldo for inspiration when others judge us for our faith, or more importantly, when we keep our faith and beliefs to ourselves out of fear of the judgment of others. May the Lord shower us with the courage and grace we need to live our faiths with certainty and fortitude.