Feast of St. Gorazd of Prague (September 4)   5 comments

Above:  Saint Gorazd of Prague

Image in the Public Domain



Orthodox Bishop of Moravia and Silesia

Orthodox Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia

Martyr, 1942

Feast Day (Old Calendar) = August 22

Feast Day (New Calendar) = September 4

St. Gorazd of Prague comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via a number of Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions, in communion with and not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Our story begins in the ninth century of the Common Era.

St. Methodius (of and “St. Cyril” fame) was one of the great missionaries in Eastern Europe.  He and St. Cyril were the “Apostles to the Slavs” and the “Fathers of Slavonic Literature.”  Sts. Cyril and Methodius invented the Cyrillic Alphabet.  St. Methodius, the Archbishop of Sirmium, had obtained Papal permission to use the Slavonic liturgy in his see, which included Moravia.  This Papal permission to utilize the Slavonic liturgy rankled many German bishops.  Then St. Methodius died on April 6, 885.  His designated successor was one GorazdPope Stephen V (or VI, depending on how one counts; reigned September 885-September 14, 891), under the influence of German bishops, summoned Gorazd to Rome, banned the Slavonic liturgy, imposed the Latin liturgy, and appointed a different archbishop to succeed St. Methodius.  Therefore, disciples of St. Methodius fled to Bulgaria, joined the Orthodox Church, and maintained the Slavonic liturgy.  

Our story skips a few centuries now.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire favored Roman Catholicism and persecuted Eastern Orthodoxy.  

Above:  Czechoslovakia, Post-World War I-September 1938

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

Matêj Pavlik, born in Hrubavrbka, Moravia, Austria-Hungary, on May 26, 1879, came from a devout Roman Catholic family.  Pavlik graduated from the theological seminary in Olomouc and joined the ranks of priests.  Our saint pursued his interest in Sts. Cyril and Methodius and studied Eastern Orthodoxy.

In the wake of Austro-Hungarian defeat in World War I, that empire came apart.  One result of this imperial dismemberment was the creation of new states, such as Czechoslovakia.  Many Slavs who had been subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire took the opportunity to leave the Roman Catholic Church and convert to Eastern Orthodoxy.  Pavlik was one of them; he, as Gorazd, became an Orthodox priest.  Our saint’s new name indicated continuity with the ninth century.  These converts joined the Serbian Orthodox Church.  That denomination consecrated St. Gorazd as the Bishop of Moravia and Silesia at the Cathedral of the Holy Archangel Michael, Belgrade, on September 25, 1921.  Dmitri, the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch, was the chief consecrator.

St. Gorazd, as the Bishop of Moravia and Silesia, did much to rebuild Eastern Orthodoxy in Czechoslovakia.  He tended to his growing flock of converts, supervised the construction of chapels and churches, and oversaw the translation of service books.  Our saint also resisted attempts by many Roman Catholic priests to convince him to renounce Eastern Orthodoxy.  Yet Antonin Cyril Stojan, the Roman Catholic Suffragan Bishop of Olomouc (1921-1923), opposed those efforts.  He ordered priests under his jurisdiction:

Leave Pavlik alone.  You are not worthy to tie his laces.  It would be good if everyone were like Pavlik.

Above:  Czechoslovakia, Immediately after the Annexation of the Sudetenland, 1938

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

German occupation and World War II changed circumstances for the people of Czechoslovakia, as well as for St. Gorazd’s flock, in particular.  The Third Reich swallowed up Czechoslovakia in stages.  The rump state of Slovakia became a German puppet state.  St. Gorazd, once under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, came under the jurisdiction of Seraphim, the Metropolitan of Berlin and Germany, part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.  Our saint recognized the threat the Nazis posed to his countrymen and his flock.

Above:  Czechoslovakia, September 1939

Scanned from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942), S.S. Obergruppenführer, Acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (1941-1942), was the face of that menace for a time.  He was one of the architects of the “Final Solution”–the Holocaust.  Heydrich, the “Butcher of Prague,” was responsible for the deaths of all twelve million or so victims of the Holocaust, as well as nearly two million Czechs, apart from the Holocaust.  He also violently suppressed Czech culture.

Above:  Sts. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, Prague

Image Source = Google Earth

On May 27, 1942, soldiers of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile ambushed Heydrich in Prague and fatally wounded him.  He died a week later.  Those soldiers hid in the crypt of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, Prague.  About this time, St. Gorazd departed for Berlin, to participate in the consecration of Johann von Gardner (a.k.a. Philip) as the Bishop of Potsdam.  (Aside:  Gardner resigned in 1945, married, and lived until 1984.)  Before leaving Prague, our saint ordered that the soldiers find refuge somewhere else.  He knew that the threat of Nazi reprisals against the Czech Orthodox Church was real.

On June 18, Nazi officials discovered the hiding place, excommunicated the resistance fighters, and began the predictable reprisals.  St. Gorazd took full responsibility and tried to limit the reprisals.  Our saint, arrested on June 27, 192, suffered tortures before a firing squad executed him at the Kobylisz Shooting Range on September 4, 1942.  He was 63 years old.  St. Gorazd’s self-sacrifice did not limit the reprisals.  Nazis also shot two priests at the Cathedral, murdered the men of the village of Lidice, sent the village women and children to labor camps, suppressed the Czech Orthodox Church, closed all Czech Orthodox congregations, and exiled all Czech Orthodox priests to German labor camps.  About 550 people died in Nazi reprisals.  Metropolitan Seraphim refused to condemn St. Gorazd.

Above:  Czechoslovakia, 1945

Scanned from then Postwar supplement to Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

The Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia revived again after World War II.  The Czech Church became self-governing in 1951 (according to the Patriarchate of Moscow) and in 1998 (according to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople).  The Church has existed in two parts–the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and the Orthodox Church in Slovakia–since the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in January 1, 1993.

This is my command, Love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.

–John 15:12-13, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

St. Gorazd loved his flock so much that he sacrificed himself for it.  That sacrifice was not in vain; that flock survived underground for a few years then emerged numerically diminished yet spiritually intact.  Our saint also took up his cross and followed Christ.  St. Gorazd knew that the servant was not greater than the master (John 15:20).


Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd, you laid down your life for your flock.

Thank you for the faithful example of Saint Gorazd of Prague,

who loved you and his Orthodox flock more than his life.

May we, who remember his life, be stalwart in Christian discipleship in our circumstances.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:1-16

Psalm 142

2 Timothy 4:6-8

John 15:12-21









5 responses to “Feast of St. Gorazd of Prague (September 4)

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  1. Another very interesting read…so much done in the name of the “Church” that was wrong. Then, you add the Nazis to the equation several centuries later and what a tragedy.

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