Feast Day: April 11

Anyone who reads the history of Eastern Europe cannot help but chance on the name of Stanislaus, the saintly but tragic bishop of Krakow, patron of Poland. He is remembered with Saints Thomas More and Thomas Becket for vigorous opposition to the evils of an unjust government.

Stanislaus was born into a well-to-do family. After being educated in the cathedral schools of Gniezno, then capital of Poland, and at Paris, he returned to Krakow, was ordained a priest, and in 1072 was elected as bishop. His eloquence and example brought about real conversion in many of his penitents, both clergy and laity. A great preacher and man of charity, Stanislaus battled the immoral behavior of the Polish ruler, King Boleslaus II.

The mission territories of Eastern Europe had become of great interest to the papacy. Bishop Stanislaus was planted in this area of unbridled lust and savage qualities. Known for his outspokenness, Stanislaus aimed his attacks at the evils of peasantry and, especially the unjust wars and immoral acts of the king. King Boleslaus first excused himself, made a show of penance, and then relapsed into his old ways.

The traditional story is that Stanislaus infuriated King Boleslaus by rebuking him for kidnapping a nobleman’s beautiful wife, when no other prelate or courtier had dared to protest. The king refused to give the lady up, turned a deaf ear to the bishop’s many entreaties, and in the end Stanislaus excommunicated him. In response, the king ordered Stanislaus executed, whereby soldiers failed in killing Stanislaus, the king then took matters into his own hands and murdered him while he celebrated Mass.

Forced to flee to Hungary, Boleslaus supposedly spent the rest of his life as a penitent in the Hungarian Benedictine abbey in Osiak. Stanislaus was canonized in 1253. He is depicted in episcopal vestments, often while performing an act of charity.

“Your people were given a Pastor who laid down his life for his sheep, defending Christian faith and morality, who in pouring out his blood made the seeds of the Gospel even more fruitful. He is known for having entrusted himself to Divine Providence, thus providing a shining example of Christian fortitude. St Stanislaus, who was marked by deep reverence for God and love for his neighbour, possessed nothing sweeter than his solicitude for the flock entrusted to his care, and to the very end of his life had no other desire than to reproduce perfectly in himself the image of the Divine Shepherd.”

                — Letter for the 700th anniversary of St. Stanislaus’ canonization, Pius XII

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Burns, Paul. “Butler’s Saint for the Day.” Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day.” Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009.
Giorgi, Rosa. “Saints: A Year in Faith and Art.” New York, NY: Abrams Books, 2005.

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