St. Walter of Pontoise

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Though St. Walter of Pontoise did not want to be in the public eye, and longed for a life of solitude, he could not escape the leadership roles to which he was called.

He lived in 11th century France, and was a professor of philosophy before joining a community of Benedictine monks. Because of his intellect, the king asked him to serve as the first abbot of a new monastery in Pontoise.

He was fearless in speaking to those in power, which made him rise in their estimation. The honor that he received from executing his position well made him anxious. He had always desired a life of silence and prayer, so he fled to a distant monastery, hoping to escape his responsibilities. His monks found him, though, and brought him back.

He tried a number of other escapes as well—he tried to live in solitude on an island but was found, and a pilgrim recognized him when he attempted to hide in another, different monastery after that.

Walter eventually appealed to the pope himself, asking to be relieved of his duties. The pope told him to make good use of the talents God had given him, and told him to never leave again. Walter took that as a definitive answer, and gave up on looking for a way out of his public ministry.

He spoke out against priests who abused their positions, and faced angry opposition. He was even seized, beaten, and thrown into prison at one point—the monks of his community had him released.

As he aged, he increased his devotions and disciplines. It is said that he rarely sat down while praying in church—he would lean on his staff instead. He would often be the last man to leave the monk’s night prayer, lost in contemplation, and sometimes would fall asleep there to be discovered in the morning in a heap on the floor.

St. Walter died on this date in 1095, which happened to be Good Friday. He is patron saint of prisoners, and of those who experience job-related stress. His image is used here with permission from Catholic.org.

The chapel in Duncan Hall is named after St. Walter of Pontoise, a designation that is marked with this plaque that stands near its door.

St. Walter of Pontoise, patron saint of those who suffer from job-related stress, pray for us!

 

Image credit: This icon comes from St. Walter Pontoise Parish in Roselle, Illinois.