St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia

(St. Wenceslaus's Day: September 28)

Many people know how Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen though probably few know any thing more about him than what the old carol says.

The story really begins when the rulers of Bohemia, Borivoy and his wife St. Ludmila, were baptized. Many of the powerful Czech families became strongly opposed to the Catholic Religion. They wished to remain in their pagan beliefs.

Borivoy and St. Ludmila had a son, Ratislav who since the year 915 ruled the whole country. He married a nominally Christian woman, Drahomira, daughter of the chief of the Veletians, a Slav tribe from the north. They had twin sons Wenceslaus and Boleslaus. Wenceslaus since he was the elder was sent to his grandmother St. Ludmila to be raised. Boeslaus remained with his mother.

St. Ludmila took great care that Wenceslaus's heart was formed to the love of God. She joined with herself in this task a priest, her chaplain Paul, who had been a personal disciple of St. Methodius and had baptized Wenceslaus. With such great teachers, Wenceslaus by the time he was ready for "college" at Budech, "understood Latin as if he were a bishop and read Slavonic with ease."

Wenceslaus was still young when his father died in battle. His mother Drahomira began to rule the country. She was greatly influenced by the powerful pagan families still in Bohemia. She became very anti-Catholic. St. Ludmila filled with love for the faith encouraged St. Wenceslaus to take over the ruling of the country. Some pagans who thought that St. Ludmila was the cause of paganism losing its influence strangled her to death while she was praying. Wenceslaus found support among a lot of the people. Drahomira was driven out and Wenceslaus was made ruler. He straightway announced that he would support God's law and His Church, punish murder severely, and endeavor to rule with justice and mercy. His mother had been banished to Budech, so he recalled her to the court, and there is no evidence that she ever opposed Wenceslaus again.

The political policy of St. Wenceslaus was to cultivate friendly relations with Germany, and he preserved the unity of his country by acknowledging King Henry I as his over-lord, about the year 926, seeing in him the legitimate successor of Charlemagne. This caused a great disturbance among some pagan people who formed a party against him. Then when St. Wenceslaus married and had a young son, his brother Boleslaus became jealous. St. Wenceslaus's son would now rule after St. Wenceslaus died. That meant that Boleslaus would never have the chance to rule. Boleslaus then joined the party that formed against St. Wenceslaus.

Early one morning, as St. Wenceslaus made his way to Mass, he met Boleslaus. Boleslaus struck Wenceslaus and they began struggling. Then friends of Boleslaus ran up and killed Wenceslaus, who murmured as he fell at the chapel door, "Brother, may God forgive you."

The people at once began to acclaim St. Wenceslaus a martyr. Many miracles were attributed to him. Boleslaus repented of his terrible deed and had St. Wenceslaus's body translated to the church of St. Vitus at Prague three years after his death. The shrine became a place of pilgrimage.

St. Wenceslaus by his death did what he was unable to do while he was living _ he made Bohemia Christian. Within thirty years of his martyrdom the Faith was so strong that Wenceslaus's friend the Emperor Otto, gave Bohemia a bishop of its own with his seat in the Cathedral of Prague, where the good King lay in a shrine to which pilgrims came from all over Germany. At the beginning of the eleventh century St. Wenceslaus was already regarded as the patron of modern Czechoslovakia.

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