Feast of Sts. Olga of Kiev, Adalbert of Magdeburg, Adalbert of Prague, Benedict of Pomerania, and Gaudentius of Pomerania (April 15)   1 comment

Above:  Germany and Russia in 1000 Common Era

SAINT OLGA OF KIEV (DIED 969)

Regent of Kievan Russia, 945-964

Her feast transferred from July 11

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SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG (DIED 981)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Magdeburg

His feast transferred from June 20

mentored

SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE (956-997)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Prague then Gnesen

“Apostle to the Prussians”

His feast transferred from April 23

martyred with

SAINT BENEDICT OF POMERANIA AND SAINT GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA (DIED 997)

Fellow Evangelists with Saint Adalbert of Prague

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Serving God can lead to difficulties, ranging from failure to martyrdom.  Yet, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta commented, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  The five saints whose overlapping stories I recount were certainly faithful, if not immediately successful.

Our saga of faithfulness begins with St. Olga of Kiev.  Of peasant stock, she married Igor, Grand Prince of Kiev (reigned 912-945).  Igor died when their son, Svyatoslav I (reigned 964-972), was a minor.  So St. Olga became regent of the first Russian state, governing ably.  She converted to Christianity in 955 or 957, depending on the source one considers trustworthy.  The regent asked Otto I, King of Germany (reigned 936-973) to send missionaries.  Otto sent a group which included St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, then a monk at the Benedictine monastery at Trier.

The mission proceeded safely as long as St. Olga was in power.  But, in 964, Svyatoslav I, a pagan, assumed full authority. History tells us that he reigned until 972, waged expansionist wars, and died at the hands of the Patzinaks, who had invaded Kievan Russia.  History also tells us that the Grand Prince had some missionaries killed; the others fled.  St. Adalbert of Magdeburg survived to evangelize another day.  Furthermore, history informs us that the death of Svyatoslav I sparked an intradynastic conflict settled by his son, Vladimir I (reigned 980-1015).  Vladimir converted to Christianity in 988, founding the Russian Orthodox Church.  His mother became the first mother the new church canonized.  The Russian Orthodox Church also declared Vladimir a saint, with a feast day of July 15.

Out of danger, St. Adalbert of Magdeburg spent four years at the imperial court at Mainz.  He also became Abbot of Weissenburg, a post he used to patronize learning.  Then, with royal support, the saint became the first Archbishop of Magdeburg.  He spent the rest of his life evangelizing the Wends, Slavonic people in Germany.

St. Adalbert of Prague, baptized as Voytiekh, came from a Bohemian noble family.  He studied under St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, who confirmed him.  So it was that Voytiekh took the confirmation name of Adalbert.  St. Adalbert of Prague became Bishop of Prague in 982 and spent the next six years attempting in vain to convert the populace.  So, in 988, he gave up and retreated to monastic life at Monte Cassino then Rome.  He returned four years later because Pope John XV (reigned 985-996) ordered him to do so.  After two more years of failure, however, the saint left Prague a second time.  Not only did people refuse to convert, but the saint locked horns with dangerous nobles.

The saint returned to Rome, but Pope Gregory V (reigned 996-999) ordered him back to Prague.  St. Adalbert disobeyed this command, given the threats of violence if he returned.  So the saint traveled instead through Hungary and Poland, becoming Archbishop of Gnesen and a missionary to the Prussians.  So it was that he and his fellow evangelists, St. Benedict and St. Gaudentius, became martyrs in Pomerania at the hands of a pagan priest.

The killing of missionaries has not ended Christianity in places; history confirms this.  That, however, is a lesson which many people have not learned.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERIC MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants

Saint Olga of Kiev,

Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg,

Saint Adalbert of Prague,

Saint Benedict of Pomerania, and

Saint Gaudentius of Pomerania,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724

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One response to “Feast of Sts. Olga of Kiev, Adalbert of Magdeburg, Adalbert of Prague, Benedict of Pomerania, and Gaudentius of Pomerania (April 15)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Sts. Egbert of Lindisfarne and Adalbert of Egmont (April 15) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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