Feastday: July 1
Earthly Life: 489 – 554 (approx)
Of all the bishops who have occupied the see of Clermont-Ferrand (Auvergne) the sixteenth and twenty-third bore the name of Gal, and both are honoured as saints. The first and most illustrious was bishop from 527 to 551. Gal was born of a senatorial family of Auvergne, the first St. Gal early embraced the monastic life, and then became councillor to St. Quintianus, who he was to succeed in the See of Clermont. Tierry I, King of Austrasia, having invaded Auvergne, took Gal prisoner and attached him to the oratory of his palace. He regained his liberty some years later and returned to Clermont. Quintianus having died, Gal was chosen as his successor in 527.
As bishop he was the intrepid defender of the rights of the Church against Sivigald, the governor appointed by Thierry, and after Sivigald’s tragic death, the protector of his children from the prince’s wrath. The chief event of his episcopate was the Council of Clermont in 535. Fifteen prelates of the kingdom of Austrasia assisted at it under the presidency of Honoratus, Bishop of Bourges. They drew up seventeen canons, of which the first sixteen are contained in the Decretum of Gratian, and have become laws of the universal Church.
The following is a summary of the most remarkable: bishops are prohibited from submitting to the deliberations of councils any private or temporal affairs, before having dealt with matters regarding discipline; clerics are forbidden to appeal to seculars in their disputes with bishops excommunication is pronounced against bishops who solicit the protection of princes in order to obtain the episcopacy, or who cause forged decrees of election to be signed. The council also declares itself forcibly against the marriages of Christians with Jews, marriages between relatives, and the misconduct of the clergy.
In 541 Gal took part in the fourth Council of Orléans, which promulgated energetic decrees for the abolition of slavery, and in 549 in the fifth, which condemned the errors of Eutyches and Nestorius.
Some additonal stories about St. Gal include that when Gal had come of age, his father arranged his marriage to a prominent senator’s daughter, thereby hoping to climb a bunch of rungs on the social ladder in one giant step. But Gal had already heard the call to serve the Church; he had resolved to consecrate his life to God alone. So, instead of marrying the finest lady in town, he fled to a nearby monastery and begged permission to enter. The abbot granted it – on one condition: that he obtain his father’s approval. His father eventually gave him the his permission. Not much later the local bishop noticed his promise and ordained him deacon, sending him as episcopal representative to King Theodoric’s court. A few years later Gal was appointed bishop himself, and pastored his flock with extraordinary prudence, humility, and zeal. He was especially noteworthy for his meekness. For example, when a senator-turned-cleric (Evodius was his name) violently insulted him (Gal was already bishop at the time), Gal made no response at all, but serenely rose from his chair and left the room to make a round of visits to his churches. Evodius was so stricken with remorse at having accosted such a gentle and self-effacing man that he ran after the saintly bishop and knelt before him right there in the dirty street in order to ask pardon.
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