Hugh was born in 1140 in Avalon, Burgundy, France. Upon reaching maturity he became an Augustinian Canon. A few years later, in 1165 at the age of 25, he joined the Carthusians at Grand Chartreuse. In 1175 he was sent to England to be prior of the recently founded Charterhouse at Witham, Somerset. Although it had only recently been founded, the priory was in need of reform. Hugh was soon able to restore discipline and order there.
In 1186 he was appointed Bishop of Lincoln. As much as possible he continued to live according to the strict discipline of his order. He reorganized the Diocese and restored and enlarged the cathedral taking part in some of the work himself. Those of us who went to England in 1991, on the pilgrimage celebrating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the SSJE, will remember the impressive façade of that cathedral, as well as the austere nave and simple beauty of the chancel and the east end.
During his episcopate, Hugh was noted especially for his concern and care for the sick and suffering, especially those afflicted with leprosy. In addition he actively opposed persecution of the Jews. He was an advocate of peace and justice, and opposed the involvement in war by King Henry and his son Richard the Lion Hearted. His cheerful disposition made it difficult for anyone to oppose him.
His teachings embodied the virtues that we heard mentioned in today’s first reading from the Letter to Titus; showing integrity and gravity, and having sound speech, so that no one could speak evil of him; (Titus 2:7) renouncing impiety and worldly passions, being self-controlled, upright, and godly; waiting for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Vv.12-13)
He taught that the marks of a Christian were to have love in one’s heart, truth in one’s mouth, and chastity in one’s body. His teaching about chastity extended even to married couples; showing them that they could possess the beauty and dignity of chastity by self-control and respect for their bodies.
He died in London in the year 1200 and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral. His coffin was escorted into the cathedral not only by kings, archbishops, bishops, and abbots, but also by a mighty throng of ordinary men and women, all of whom felt that they were not so much burying a bishop but honoring a friend.
In the same spirit as he was honored then we honor him today.
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