St. Stephen of Obazine
Stephen of Obazine, (1085 – 1154) was a French priest and hermit, famed for his pious nature, even from a young age.
Stephen began his religious life as a priest in Vielge, France, and was stirred a reputation of holiness, especially when it came to the recitation of the divine office, only interrupting these if something of grave necessity arose. He was also known for his love for all things to do with the Mass, ensuring provision of fitting sacred vessels, furnishings, and vestments were perfect for God. Wanting a more austere life, Stephen and a like-minded priest, by the name of Peter, set out at the beginning of Lent one year to locate place where they could live as hermits. So it was on Good Friday, they discovered in the region of Obazine a forest. The two priests remained there fasting until Easter Sunday, after which they found a nearby church to celebrate Mass. A famous story remains of this time, heading back to their hermitage, the two friends paused to rest on the mountain, exhausted and weak from hunger. While resting a farmwoman offered them half a loaf of bread to eat and a vessel of milk to drink. Stephen would later say that this simple meal was the most delightful he had ever tasted.
Founding of the Obazine Abbey
In 1134, the Bishop of Tulle approved the hermitage to be founded as a monastery, even though at the time it composed mainly many small huts in the forest. Nearby at Coyroux they founded a convent for 150 nuns along similar lines. As there was no written Rule for the community, in 1142 Stephen joined the Cistercians, and the monks and nuns in the forest followed suit. He affiliated his house with the Cistercians in 1147, and served as the first abbot. The monastery flourished for many years, until it was suppressed during the French Revolution, and its property was seized in 1791. The abbey church survives to this day, and serves as a parish church.