Saint Ivo of Kermartin

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Saint Ivo of Kermartin; oil painting by Rogier van der Weyden, 15th century

Saint Ivo of Kermartin, also known as Ivo de Helori, whose name may be spelled Yvo, Yves, or Ives, is the patron saint of the province of Brittany, and of lawyers and judges, and orphans and abandoned children. Saint Ivo is appealed to when suffering from canker sores, and for legal help, especially justice for the poor and for pro bono legal work. His feast day is May 19.

Ivo de Helori was born on October 17, 1253, to Helor, lord of Kermartin and Azo du Kenquis, who inspired her son to live a holy life of service. Kermartin was a manor near Tréguier in Brittany, now a French province. At the age of 14, Ivo was sent to Paris, where he studied law, theology, and liberal arts, impressing all who knew him with his quick intellect and piety. Repulsed by the hedonism of his classmates, he devoted himself to prayer and spent his free time visiting the sick in local hospitals. Tradition has it that his virtuous example inspired the conversion of several classmates to an upright life. He wore a hair shirt under his clothing, fasted frequently, and slept sparingly, using a stone pillow. He permanently abstained from meat and wine. He also took a private vow of chastity. In the city of Orleans, he undertook postgraduate studies in canon law, and also took minor orders, which qualified him for church ministry but did not ordain him as a priest. At this point he was appointed as a judge in the ecclesiastical court at Rennes. In those days such courts had jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases as well as matters of church law. Ivo defended the poor and protected widows and orphans, even paying their expenses and visiting them in prison. He refused the "gifts" or bribes which were usually offered to judges in legal cases at that time. In 1284 he was ordained to the priesthood, continuing to practice law and serve as an ecclesiastical judge. Meanwhile, he used his own money to build a hospital for the poor, and donated the harvests from his manor to feed the patients there. He died in Louannec, also in Brittany, on May 19, 1303, at the age of 49 — his life possibly shortened by his ascetic habits.

Saint Ivo is usually depicted with a purse in his right hand and some kind of legal document in his left hand; or shown standing between a rich man and a poor man to enact justice between them. Hoodoo psychics, spirit workers, and root doctors who are adherents of the Catholic religion call upon Saint Ivo for healing from canker sores and for seeking justice for the poor, including pro bono legal work.

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