Monday, September 28, 2009

Today's Saint: St. Wenceslaus, Martyr

 
 Today is the optional memorial of St. Wenceslaus, martyr.
 
St. Wenceslaus was born around 907 near Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was 13 years old, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his ambitious mother, the pagan. Drahomira, who encouraged an anti-Christian government. Wenceslaus was raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla, who saw to it that he was educated in the faith.

Drahomira resented her mother-in-law Ludmilla's influence over her son Wenceslaus, and sent men to kill Ludmilla. Drahomira's rule was so cruel in Wenceslaus' name that he was compelled on behalf of his subjects to overthrow her and assume power for himself. Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king, he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia.

Throughout his life he preserved his virginity. He had a deep love for the poor and needy and served them through many acts of charity. He often attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy; with his own hands he sowed the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints.

In the year 929, there were invasions by the German king, Henry I. St. Wenceslaus decided to submit to the German king, perhaps to avoid the horrors and suffering of war, but this decision angered his younger brother the pagan Boleslav. Boleslav invited his brother to stay at his castle. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus assassinated him at the door of the church.

Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Martyred at the age of twenty-two, Wenceslaus is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.

St. Wenceslaus is also the patron saint of: Bohemia, brewers, and Moravia.
 
To learn more about St. Wenceslaus, see Catholic Culture, the Catholic Encylopedia, or SQPN.
 
 

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