Saint Yves Helori, descended from a noble and virtuous family near Treguier in Brittany, was born in 1253. At fourteen years of age he went to Paris, and afterwards to Orleans to pursue his studies. His mother was accustomed to say to him often that he ought to live in such a way as became a Saint, to which his answer always was that he indeed hoped to be one. This resolution took deep root in his soul, and was a constant spur to virtue and a check against the least shadow of any dangerous course. His time was chiefly divided between study and prayer. For his recreation he visited the hospitals, where he attended the sick with great charity, and comforted them in the severe trials which their sufferings occasioned.
Saint Yves made a private vow of perpetual chastity; but this was not known, and many honorable matches were proposed to him, which he modestly rejected as incompatible with his studious life. He deliberated long whether to embrace the religious or the clerical state; but his desire to serve his neighbor determined him at length in favor of the latter. He wished, out of humility, to remain in the lesser orders; but his bishop compelled him to receive the priesthood, a step which cost him many tears, though he had qualified himself for that sacred dignity by his perfect purity of mind and body, as well as a long and fervent preparation.
He was appointed ecclesiastical judge for the diocese of Rennes. Saint Yves protected orphans and widows, defended the poor, and administered justice to all with an impartiality, application, and tenderness which gained him the good-will even of those who lost their causes. He was surnamed the advocate of the poor. He built near his own house a hospital for the poor and sick; he washed their feet, cleansed their ulcers, served them at table, and ate only the scraps which they left. He distributed among the poor his grain, or the price for which he sold it, immediately after the harvest. When a certain person endeavored to persuade him to keep it for a few months, that he might sell it at a better price, he answered, I know not whether I shall then be alive to give it. Another time the same person said to him, I have gained a 20% profit by keeping my grain. But I, replied the Saint, recalling the Lord's promises, a hundredfold, by immediately giving it away.
During the Lent of 1303 he felt his strength failing him; yet, far from abating anything in his austerities, he thought himself obliged to redouble his fervor in proportion as he advanced nearer to eternity. On the eve of the Ascension he preached to his people and said Mass supported at the altar by two persons, and he gave advice to all who addressed themselves to him. After this he lay down on his pallet of plaited twigs and branches, and received the Last Sacraments. From that moment on he spoke with God alone, until his soul went to possess Him in His glory. His death occurred in May, 1303, in his fiftieth year.
Reflection. Saint Yves was a Saint amid the dangers of the world. He preserved his virtue untainted only by arming himself carefully against its perils by conversing assiduously with God in prayer and holy meditation, and by watchfully shunning the snares of bad company. Without these precautions all the instructions of parents and all other means of virtue are ineffectual. The soul which does not steer wide of danger is sure to founder on the reef.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).