Saint Ernest of Mecca – Abbot of the abbey of Zwiefalten
Died 1148 AD in Mecca
Feast November 7
Saint Ernest (died 1148) was the abbot of the Benedictine Zwiefalten Abbey at Zwiefalten, Germany during the 12th century. He participated in the Second Crusade fought by Christians between 1145 and 1149 to regain the Holy Land, including Jerusalem.
Not much is known about Saint Ernest’s life. He was born in Steisslingen, Germany, and had been the abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Zwiefalten, Germany during the 12th century.
When St. Bernard called for participation in the Second Crusade to recapture Jerusalem and other holy lands, Ernest decided to participate in it. Before leaving, he is said to have told the monks and laymen brothers of the abbey, “The death I am destined to die matters little so long as it allows me to suffer for the love of Christ.” The crusade was led by Emperor Conrad III of Germany, the emperor’s brother Otto of Freising and St. Ernest. The crusade was not successful. Among the two or three hundred thousand Christians who went, only a few hundred returned two years later.
If you are neither Eastern Orthodox nor Roman Catholic, you may not fully understand what someone’s saint means to us. For many years, I have wondered about my name. I found one reference years ago to a monk in Egypt. But, it was only today that I found the very meager story of Saint Ernest. There is no icon of him. He comes from after the Great Split. The only “images” of him are so general that they would fit any of multiple saints. But, he did exist. I do not yet know how the name Ernesto, Ernst, and Ernest became popular. After all, think of how many Ernesto’s, Ernest’s, and Ernst’s there are. Yet, his name has disappeared.
Apparently, he was only ever a local saint. He was never declared an universal saint. Yet, his name lived on. And, I suppose that the fact that his name has lived on in so many people is evidence that, whatever may be declared by the broader Church, he was truly a saint. I believe that his name was preserved by the Holy Spirit even when the Church did not fully declare him a saint. And that tells me that his witness was strong enough for God to wish his name to be preserved. Of course, it may be just wistful thinking on my part. But, it does comfort me.
Now, if only I could find an icon or holy image of him.