Friday, May 7, 2021

Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr

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The 11th Century—the Century of contest between the Priests of the Church and Barbarism—deputes today another Martyr to our Risen Jesus. It is Stanislaus, loved by noble Poland as one of her chief protectors. He was slain at the Altar by a Christian Prince whom he had reproved for his crimes. The blood of the courageous Pontiff was mingles, and in the same sacrifice, with that of our Redeemer. What an invincible energy there is in these Lambs whom Jesus has sent amidst the wolves! They seem to be changes, all at once, into Lions, like Jesus himself was, at his Resurrection. There is not a Century that has not had its Martyrs: some for the Faith, others for the unity of the Church, others for her Liberty, others for Justice, others for Charity, and others, like our great Saint of today, for the maintenance of Morals. The 19th Century, too, has had its Martyrs; scarcely a year elapses without our hearing of some that have been added to the bright list in the far East; and who knows but what there will be Martyrs even in Europe before the remaining thirty years have transpired? At the commencement of last Century, there was little probability of its providing such an abundant harvest of Martyrdom as it did. Of one thing we are quite sure: whatever persecutions may arise, the Spirit of Fortitude will not be wanting to the Champions of Truth. Martyrdom is one of the Church’s characteristics, and it has never failed her. The Apostles who are clinging to Jesus during these days preceding his Ascension drank the Chalice which he drank; and only yesterday, we were honoring the favorite disciple’s martyrdom—yes, even he had to tread the path prepared for all.

Holy Church tells us, in the account we now subjoin, how the saintly Bishop of Cracow was offered the glorious Chalice, and how courageously he accepted it.

Stanislaus Polonus, apud Cracoviam nobili genere natus, et piis parentibus, qui antea per annos triginta steriles, illum a Deo precibus impetrarunt, ab ineunte ætate futuræ sanctitatis specimen dedit. Adolescens bonis artibus operam navavit, multumque in sacra Canonum, et theologiæ doctrina profecit: parentibus mortuis, amplum patrimonium pauperibus distribuit, vitæ monasticæ desiderio. Sed Dei providentia Canonicus Cracoviensis, et concionator factus a Lamperto Episcopo, in ejus postea locum, quamvis invitus, sufficitur. Quo in munere, omnium pastoralium virtutum laude, et præcipue misericordia in pauperes, enituit.

Stanislaus was born at Cracow in Poland. His parents (who were of a noble family), after being thirty years without children, obtained him from God by prayer. He gave promise, even from his infancy, of future sanctity. While young, he applied hard to study, and made great progress in Canon Law and Theology. After the death of his parents, he wished to embrace the monastic life, and therefore distributed his rich fortune among the poor. But divine Providence willing otherwise, he was made a Canon and Preacher of the Cathedral of Cracow, by Bishop Lampert, whose successor he afterwards became. In the duties thus imposed upon him, he shone in every pastoral virtue, especially in that of charity to the poor.

Erat tum Poloniæ rex Boleslaus, quem graviter offendit, quod illius notam libidinem publice arguebat. Quare in solemni regni conventu Stanislaum per calumniam in judicium coram se vocari curat, tamquam pagum occuparet, quem Ecclesiæ suæ nomine coemerat. Qud cum neque tabulis probare posset, et testes veritatem dicere timerent, spondet Episcopus, se Petrum pagi venditorem, qui triennio ante obierat, intra dies tres i njudicium adducturum. Conditione cum risu accepta, vir Dei toto triduo jejuniis, et orationi incumbit: ipso sponsionis die post oblatum Missæ sacrificium, Petrum e sepulchro surgere jubet: qui statim redivivus, Episcopum ad regium tribunal euntem sequitur, ibique rege, et cæteris supore attonitis, de agro a se vendito, et pretio rite sibi ab Episcopo persoluto, testimonium dicit, atque iterum in Domino obdormivit.

Boleslaus was the then King of Poland. The Saint incurred his grave displeasure for having publicly reprimanded his notorious immorality. Wherefore in a solemn meeting of the grandees of his kingdom, the King summoned him to appear in judgment, to answer the accusation of his having appropriated to himself some land purchased in the name of his Cathedral. The bishop not being able to produce the deeds of sale, and the witnesses being afraid to speak the truth, he promised to bring before the court within three days the seller of the land, by name Peter, who had died three years previously. His proposition excited laughter, but was accepted. For three days did the man of God apply himself to fasting and prayer; and, on the day appointed, after offering up the sacrifice of the Mass, he commanded Peter to rise from his grave, who, there and then, returned to life, and followed the Bishop to the King’s tribunal. There, to the bewilderment of the King and the audience, he gave his testimony regarding the sale of the land, and the price duly paid him by the Bishop. This done, he again slept in the Lord.

At Boleslaum frustra sæpe admonitum, Stanislaus tandem a Fidelium communione removet. Ille iracundia furens milites in ecclesiam immittit, ut sanctum Episcopum confodiant: qui ter conati, occulta vi tertio divinitus sunt depulsi. Postremo impius rex Sacerdotem Dei, hostiam immaculatam ad altare offerentem, sua manu obtruncat: corpus membratim concisum, et per agros projectum, aquilæ a feris mirabiliter defendunt. Mox Canonici Cracovienses sparsa membra nocturni de cœlo splendoris indicio colligunt, et suis locis apte disponunt; quæ subito ita inter se copulata sunt, ut nulla vulnerum vestigia exstarent. Multis præterea miraculis servi sui sanctitatem Deus declaravit post ejus mortem; quibus permotus Innocentius Quartus, summus Pontifex, illum in sanctorum numerum retulit.

After several times admonishing Boleslaus, but all to no purpose, Stanislaus separated him from communion with the Faithful. Maddened with anger, the King sent soldiers into the Church, that they might put the holy Bishop to death. They thrice endeavored to do so, but were, each time, repelled by the hidden power of God. The impious King himself then went; and finding the Priest of God offering the unspotted victim at the Altar, he beheaded him with his own hand. The corpse was then cut in pieces and thrown into a field; but it was miraculously defended from wild beasts by eagles. During the night, the Canons of Cracow, aided by a heavenly light, collected the scattered members, and having placed them in their natural position, they found that they were immediately joined to each other, so as that not a single mark of a wound was traceable. God manifested the sanctity of his servant by many other miracles, which occurred after his death, and which induced Pope Innocent the Fourth to proceed to his Canonization.

Thou wast powerful in word and work, O Stanislaus! and our Lord rewarded thee with a Martyr’s crown. From thy throne of glory, cast a look of pity upon us; obtain for us from God that gift of fortitude, which was so prominent in thee, and which we so much need in order to surmount the obstacles which impede our progress. Our Risen Lord must have no cowards among his soldiers. The Kingdom, into which he is about to enter—he took it by assault; and he tells us plainly that if we would follow him thither, we must prepare to use violence. Brave soldier of the living God! get us brave hearts. We need them for our combat—whether that be one of open violence for the Faith or Unity of the Church, or one which is to be fought with the invisible enemies of our salvation. Thou wast indeed a good shepherd, for the presence of the world neither made thee flee nor fear—ask our Heavenly Father to send us Shepherds like thee. Succor Holy Church, for she has to contend with enemies in every part of the world. Convert her persecutors, as thou convertedst Boleslaus; he was thy murderer, but thy Martyrdom won mercy for him. Remember thy dear Poland, which honors thee with such fervent devotion. Break the iron yoke that has so long crushed her. Yes—it is time for her to regain her rank among nations. During the severe trials, which her sins have drawn down upon her, she has maintained the sacred link of Catholic Faith and Unity; she has been patient and faithful; as our Risen Jesus to have pity on her, and reward her patience and fidelity. May he mercifully grant her a share in his Resurrection—that day will be one of joy for the whole Christian world, and a new Canticle will be sung throughout the earth, to the Lord our God.

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