Thursday, May 28, 2020

Saints for Today: Wenceslaus, Martyr (907-929)

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Dr. Jean Lee
Jean M. Lee, M.A., D.Min., is a licensed behavioral health and substance abuse counselor, founding a nonprofit, state-licensed behavior health counseling agency and Christian gift/book store. Volunteer work includes: Jail ministry, Legion of Mary membership, door-to-door evangelization, and writing a weekly newspaper column titled “Faith and Inspiration: Encyclopedia of Saints for Today.” A Catholic revert after 32 years away from the Church, she is devout in the Catholic faith, loves the saints, and lives a deeper spiritual/religious and more joyful life since returning to the Church.

Feast Day: September 28.

Wenceslaus, the son of Duke Wratislaw, was born near Prague. After the death of his father, Wenceslaus was educated by his saintly maternal grandmother Ludmilla, a devoted Christian who was murdered later through the machinations of his mother. He became duke at the age of 15, and often followed the advice of the clergy and worked for the religious and educational improvement of his people.

Wenceslaus met with the hostility of the pagan officials as he stood for Christian values in the midst of the political intrigues which characterized tenth-century Bohemia. He was charitable to the poor, and he would clothe the naked, feed the hungry and offer hospitality to travelers according to the summons of the gospel. He loved all his people, rich and poor. Wenceslaus was such a devout and pious ruler that his enemies said he belonged in a monastery rather than on the throne.

Shortly after he came to power, some of his advisors were urging him to take revenge on his mother for her treason. He told them: “Why do you want to prevent me from applying the divine law of Jesus Christ and to obey his commandments? I reject your advice because I want to serve God with all my heart.” The relevance of Wenceslaus is that he respected and followed God’s law even under difficult circumstances.

Wenceslaus’ rule was marked by efforts toward unification within Bohemia, support of the Church and peacemaking negotiations with Germany, a policy that caused him trouble with the anti-Christian opposition. When the young ruler married and had a son, his younger brother Boleslav, realizing that he had no chance of succession to the throne, joined in the anti-Christian opposition. He invited Wenceslaus to Alt-Bunglou for the celebration of the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. As Wenceslaus was entering the church, his brother struck him on the head with a sword; they struggled, and then friends of Boleslav finished the assassination.

Although his death resulted primarily from political upheaval, Wenceslaus was hailed as a martyr for the Christian faith and his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. In 932 his remains were transferred to the church of St. Vitus in Prague. By the year 984 the feast of St. Wenceslaus was being observed, and today the Czechs include his name in the litany of the saints. He is the first Slav to be canonized and hailed as the patron of the Bohemian people and the Czech Republic.

Opening prayer for Mass:

“Lord, you taught your martyr Wenceslaus to prefer the kingdom of heaven to all that the earth has to offer. May his prayers free us from our self-seeking and help us to serve you with all our hearts.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Farmer, David. “Oxford Dictionary of Saints.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.

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