St. Stanislaus of Poland, Bishop and Martyr
On April 11, Catholic Christians following the Western Church Calendar remember a heroic son of Poland, the Bishop and Martyr St. Stanislaus. He was born in 1030 near Krakow, in the town of Szczepanow to a wealthy family.
This nobleman by birth would hear the call to another way of life, the way of following the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, who became poor so that we might find true riches. Educated in Gnesen he responded to the Holy Spirit’s call to Holy Orders in service to the Church.
It was Bishop Lambert of Krakow who ordained him to the priesthood. Years later, thei holy priest would be called to replace Bishops Lambert and become the Bishop of Krakow in 1071. He was chosen by both the Bishop, who deeply admired the priest, and by the faithful who loved him and saw in him Christ’s character and true compassion for the poor. He was known to be a truly holy man and his preaching and teaching led many to embrace the faith or to live it more fervently in a difficult time in Poland. He was also beloved by the clergy, visiting them regularly and showing them the love of a spiritual father.
Poland was ruled by a cruel and corrupt King named Boleslaus II who cared neither for the faithful nor for God. The Nation was under the thumb of a tyrant. Bishop Stanislaus regularly confronted the King and called him to reform his life and care for the people entrusted to him. The Kind followed neither admonition. In fact, he became increasingly angered by the good Bishop. Bishop Stanislaus was not intimidated and one account indicates he used the most severe rod of correction to seek the conversion of the King - he excommunicated him and called him to repentance.
The King raged against the Bishop. In fact, he became so overcome with hatred that he waited outside the Chapel of St. Michael, outside of Krakow one morning. While the Bishop was celebrating Holy Mass, the King entered the sanctuary and killed him with his own sword. So vicious and filled with hatred was this tyrant that he then had Bishop Stanislaus dismembered and tried to hide the evil deed. However, the Saint’s relics were recovered and placed in veneration at the Cathedral of Krakow. He died in 1097.
Bread on the Trail: St. Stanislaus of Poland demonstrates the courage of a man totally given over to service to the only eternal King, Jesus Christ. His holiness and godly character led the faithful of his time to live their faith when faced with the oppression that can come from unjust rulers. His Bishop’s heart toward his priests ensured that the Clergy of his day persevered even when they were oppressed. When faced with the call to leadership in the Church in an hour when an unjust King threatened the Church and rejected God, he did not back down. First, he sought to assist the King to find the path to conversion and change. Then, he refused to compromise. He became a martyr, a word derived from a Greek word which means witness. Though not yet called to shed our own blood for the faith, we are all called to be witnesses. We can learn from this champion of Poland how to embrace our own calling in a hostile culture.
Prayer: Father, may the example of St. Stanislaus of Poland inspire the people of Poland and throughout the world to follow Jesus Christ even in the midst of oppression form ungodly governments. May his holiness of life and dedication to prayer be an example to each one of us in our own state in life and vocation. May his holy priesthood and Episcopal service inspire priests and bishops in our own time to care for the faithful and stand up to those who persecute the Church, without fear for their own safety, willing to even shed their blood if called to do so.