ST. IVO OF KERMARTIN (A.D. 1303)

(St. Yves)

THE patron of lawyers, St. Ivo Helory, was born near Treguier in Brittany at Kermartin, where his father was lord of the manor. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Paris, and before the end of a ten years' stay in its famous schools he had gained great distinction in philosophy, theology and canon law. He then passed on to Orleans to study civil law under the celebrated jurist Peter de la Chapelle. In his student days he began to practice austerities which he continued and increased throughout his life. He wore a hair shirt, abstained from meat and wine, fasted during Advent and Lent (as well as at other times) on bread and water, and took his rest--which was always short--lying on a straw mat with a book or a stone by way of a pillow. Upon his return to Brittany after the completion of his education, he was appointed by the archdeacon of Rennes diocesan "official", in ,their words, judge of the cases that came before the ecclesiastical court. In this capacity he protected orphans, defended the poor and administered justice with an impartiality and kindliness which gained him the goodwill even of the losing side.

 Before very long, however, his own diocesan claimed him, and he returned to his native district as official to Alan de Bruc, Bishop of Treguier. Here his championship of the downtrodden won for him the name of " the poor man's advocate ". Not content with dealing out justice to the helpless in his own court, he would personally plead for them in other courts, often paying their expenses, and visiting hem when they were in prison. Never would he accept the presents or bribes which had become so customary as to be regarded as a lawyer's perquisite. He always strove if possible to reconcile people who were at enmity, and to induce them to settle their quarrels out of court. In this manner he prevented many of those who came to him from embarking on costly and unnecessary lawsuits*. St. Ivo had received minor orders when he was made official at Rennes, and in 1284 he was ordained priest and given the living of Tredrez. Three years later he resigned his legal office and devoted the last fifteen years of his life to his parishioners--first Tredrez , and afterwards in the larger parish of Lovannec.

 

 St. Ivo built a hospital in which he tended the sick with his own hands. He would often give the clothes off his back to beggars, and once, when he discovered that a tramp had passed the night on his doorstep, he made the man occupy his bed the following night, while he himself slept on the doorstep. He was as solicitous about the spiritual welfare of the people as about their temporal needs, losing no opportunity of instructing them. In great demand as a preacher, he would deliver sermons in other churches besides his own, giving his addresses sometimes in Latin, sometimes in French, and sometimes in Breton. All differences were referred to him, and his arbitration was nearly always accepted. He used to distribute his corn, or the value of it, to the poor directly after the harvest. When it was suggested that he should keep it for a time so as to obtain a better price for it, he replied, " I cannot count upon being alive then to have the disposal of it ". From the beginning of Lent, 1303, his health failed visibly, but he would not abate is accustomed austerities. On Ascension eve he preached and celebrated Mass, though he was so weak that he had to be supported. He then lay down on his bed, which was a hurdle, and received the last sacraments. He died on May 19, 1303, in the fiftieth year of his age, and was canonized in 1347.

We are particularly well informed regarding the life of St. Ivo Helory. In the Acta Sanctorum, May, vol. iv, the Bollandists have reprinted a great part of the documents collected twenty eight years after his death for the process of canonization. These have been edited again with supplementary matter by A. de La Borderie, Monuments Originaux de l'Histoire de S. Yves 1887. Some further biographical material will be found in the Analecta

 

•Hence the verse:

"Sanctus Ivo erat Brito,
Advocatus, et non latro
Res miranda populo."

Translation:

"St. Yvo was a Breton and a lawyer,
But not dishonest--
An astonishing thing in people's eyes."


Attwater, Butler's Live of the Saints, vol. II, pp. 351-352. This work was originally published in 1756 and was revised in 1956.This text is quoted for educational purposes only under authority of 17 USC 107. No other use is intended or permitted.


  "St. Ives of Bretagne (Ital. Sant' Ivo; on account of his profession, he is styled "Saint Yves-Helori, Avocat des Pauvres"). He belonged to a noble family, and from his mother, Aza du Plessis who conducted his early education, he derived his remarkable piety. As a boy he had an ambition to be a saint. He was but fourteen when he went to Paris, and here and afterwards at Orleans he devoted himself to legal studies. It has been said that lawyers have chosen him as their patron rather than pattern, as he was distinguished for his love of justice and its vindication under all circumstances. All through his years of study he gave many hours to religious duties, and especially to the labors of charity. He also at this time made a vow of celibacy. After returning home he studied theology. At the age of thirty he was made judge advocate. He always attempted to reconcile contending parties without resorting to law, and was always ready to plead for the poor without recompense. At length he entered the priesthood. Before assuming his priestly garments he gave those he had worn to the poor, and went out from the hospital where he had distributed them with bare head and feet. When a priest he continued to he the Advocate of the Poor, and his double duties wore on his health. He died at the age of fifty. He is the patron of lawyers in all Europe. May 19, A. D. 1303."

 

Clara E. Clement, Christian Symbols and Stories of the Saints (1886), p. 149.


The image of St. Yves above is an original statue by Ernst Schwidder, deceased, commissioned for St. Yves Mission Church. The saint is depicted in priestly vestments holding a book of the law and a loaf of bread to signify his concern for the poor.

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