Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saint Stephen of Hungary

As much as I love and admire Hannah, the saintly mother of the Prophet Samuel, I prefer to recognize 2 September as the feast of Saint Stephen, King of Hungary. 

Saint Stephen, a man of the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, brought the Christian faith to his native Hungary.  He was Grand Prince of the Hungarians until he was made the first King of Hungary in 1000.  From then until his death in 1038 he poured his energy into the establishment of the Church in his country, founding and funding bishoprics, churches, and monasteries.  He hoped for his son, Emeric, to succeed him as king, but Emeric's life was cut short.  He died in a hunting accident, and Stephen's words of mourning for his son reveal a devout faith and knowledge of the scriptures:
By God's secret decision death took him, so that wickedness would not change his soul and false imaginations would not deceive his mind, as the Book of Wisdom teaches about early death.
Stephen fell asleep in Christ on the Feast of Mary's own dormition in Christ, 15 August, 1038.  His canonization and the transferal of his relics took place on 20 August, 1083.  For this reason 20 August was his longstanding feast day, which in the seventeenth century was moved to 2 September, to honor the Christian victory over the Ottoman Turk in Budapest.  The 20 August feast, however, remained a national celebration in Hungary, a feast which was co opted and perverted by the Communists during the Cold War.

Thank God for the way He advanced His Church by the devout lives of men such as Stephen of Hungary.  Christians of Hungarian heritage, and of the whole Church, owe a great deal to this Christian of ten centuries ago.  Let me just add one thought to this brief reflection.  Stephen was a great Christian influence on his country, yet that was only possible because his mother, Adelaide of Poland, was a devout Christian, and in Christ influenced both her husband (who was a pagan) and her son.  As with Saint Augustine, it was the mother whose faith in Christ planted the seed which came to full flower only after her earthly life had ended.

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