Bl. Roger LeFort

(d. 1367)

Roger LeFort is a minor figure in the sense that little is known about him in detail. He was prominent enough to be elected bishop of Orleans France; to be promoted to bishop of Limoges; and finally to be advanced to archbishop of Bourges. He died with a reputation for sanctity, although he has earned the title “Blessed” rather from local acclaim than from papal beatification.

There is, however, an interesting and amusingly human story about how this prominent priest of the diocese of Orleans chanced to be chosen a bishop at all. In medieval times it was customary for a diocesan bishop to be elected by the canons of the diocesan cathedral. The canons were a group of leading diocesan priests roughly comparable to the “consultors” of our American dioceses.

When the see of Orleans fell vacant around the middle of the 14th century, some of the canons of Orleans began to speak publicly about their own aspirations to the post of bishop. Roger, a well-known churchman of the diocese, was upset by what he considered a display of selfish ambition. Speaking to one of the more unassuming canons, he said, “These men don’t seem to realize what a heavy responsibility a bishop has to bear, and how many difficulties he faces.” Then he added with an ironic sense of humor, “I hope the electors will think of me on the present occasion. I, too, should like to be a bishop!”

The canon to whom he spoke may or may not have seen the twinkle in the eye of LeFort. Anyhow, when the body of canons gathered to vote on an episcopal candidate, this canon strongly recommended Roger himself for the job. Surprisingly, the rest of the electors agreed with the proposal. So the chairman rose and proclaimed that LeFort had been unanimously elected. “He is a man of eminent sanctity and wisdom” the chairman concluded. “Assuredly this is the decision of the Holy Spirit, whom we can- not resist without guilt.”

Roger was nonplussed when told the news. He had only been kidding, he said, when he spoke of wanting to be a bishop. Heaven knew he had neither the desire nor the talent for the job! However, the people of Orleans gave the bishop-elect a big hand. They said the canons could not have picked a better man. They knew he was modest and unselfish. So poor LeFort was the victim of his own wry humor.

The electors’ choice proved to have been indeed inspired. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Roger, more able than he himself realized, became an effective churchman, highly respected for his talent and goodness. As archbishop of Bourges he did much to promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. This doctrine was being gradually clarified in the 14th century, although it was to be defined as a dogma of faith only in 1854.

Archbishop LeFort’s reputation for holiness increased as he grew older. When he died at the age of 90, he left all his personal estate for the education of poor boys. His tomb became a center of pilgrimage, and miracles were reported through his intercession.

It is the way of the Holy Spirit to work quietly without our realizing He is around. But sometimes if we pause and listen, on the occurrence of some happy event, we can hear the parting flutter of His wings.

--Father Robert F. McNamara