Saint Wenceslas

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Saint Wenceslas

Martyr
(† 938)

Wenceslas, born towards the end of the ninth century, was the son of a Christian Duke of Bohemia, but his mother was a harsh and cruel pagan. His holy grandmother, Ludmilla, seeing the danger to the future king, asked to bring him up. Wenceslas was educated by her good offices in the true faith, and under her tutelage acquired an exceptional devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. At the death of his father, however, he was still a minor, and his mother assumed the government and passed a series of persecuting laws. In the interests of the Faith, Wenceslas, encouraged by his grandmother, claimed and obtained through the support of the people, a large portion of the country as his own kingdom. Soon afterwards his grandmother was martyred, out of hatred of her faith and services to her country, while making her thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

His mother secured the apostasy and alliance of her second son, Boleslas, who became henceforth her ally against the Christians. Wenceslas in the meantime ruled as the brave and pious king of Bohemia. When his kingdom was attacked, the prince of the invading army, which had been called in by certain seditious individuals, was approaching with a lance to slay him. This prince, named Radislas, saw two celestial spirits beside him; he had already seen him make the sign of the cross and then heard a voice saying not to strike him. These marvels so astonished him that he descended from his horse, knelt at the feet of Wenceslas and asked his pardon. Peace was then reestablished in the land.

In the service of God Saint Wenceslas was constant, planting with his own hands the wheat and pressing the grapes for Holy Mass, at which he never failed to assist each day. He provided for the poor and himself took what they needed to them at night, to spare them the shame they might incur if their poverty became public knowledge. He desired to introduce the Benedictine Order into his kingdom, but was struck down by a violent death before he could do so and himself enter a monastery, as he wished to do.

His piety provided the occasion for his death. After a banquet at his brother’s palace, to which he had been treacherously invited and where he manifested great gentleness towards his brother and mother, he went to pray at night before the tabernacle, as he was accustomed to do. There, at midnight on the feast of the Angels in the year 938, he received the crown of martyrdom by the sword, at the hand of his own brother.

Reflection: Saint Wenceslas teaches us that the safest retreat amid the trials of life, or to prepare for the stroke of death, is the sanctuary of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

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); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11

Advertisements

Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian

Image may contain: 3 people

Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian

Martyrs
(† 286)

Saints Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born in Arabia in the third century, of noble and virtuous parents. Saint Gregory of Tours wrote that they were twins. They studied the sciences in Syria, and became eminent for their skill in medicine. Being Christians and filled with the charity which characterizes our holy religion, they practiced their profession with great application and wonderful success, but never accepted any fee. They were loved and respected by the people for their good offices and their zeal for the Christian faith, which they took every opportunity to propagate.

When the persecution of Diocletian began to rage, it was impossible for persons of such distinction to remain concealed. They were denounced to the governor of Cilicia, named Lysias, as Christians who cured various illnesses and delivered possessed persons in the name of the one called Christ; they do not permit others to go to the temple to honor the gods by sacrifices. The two brothers were apprehended by the order of the governor, and after various preliminary torments were sentenced to be bound hand and foot and thrown into the sea. Their prayer has been conserved: We rejoice, Lord, to follow the path of Your commandments, as in the midst of immense riches; and even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil. And they recited the 23rd Psalm. The sentence was accomplished, but an Angel untied their bonds and drew them out of the sea. The witnesses of this fact returned to announce to the governor what had happened. They were brought back to Lysias as magicians, and he decided to imprison them until he could decide upon their fate.

He condemned them to be burnt alive, but they prayed to God to manifest His power, lest His name be blasphemed, and an earthquake moved the fire into the midst of the pagans and spared the martyrs. When the rack also left them unharmed, the prefect swore by his gods he would continue to torture them until they became the food of birds of prey. They were crucified and stoned by the people, but this and still other tortures were ineffectual. They were finally beheaded with three Christian companions.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11