This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28 -- Feast of Saint Wenceslaus

September 28 is Czech Statehood Day, proclaimed on the feast of the patron saint and once-&-future king, Wenceslaus.  Yes, he's the guy in the Christmas song about being charitable on Boxing Day / the Feast of Stephen.  But actually, his life was more interesting (though also more brutal) than the song. 

His dad was a Christian but his mom had been pagan until her wedding.  Baptism doesn't really shut down beliefs, though.  When young Wenceslaus was thirteen, his dad died and his grandmother became the regent and took custody of the boy.  Mom had Grandma strangled and reclaimed her son.  There was some controversy about whether she tried to convert him to paganism, but if so, she was unsuccessful.  Five years later, Wenceslaus claimed the throne for himself and exiled his mother.

The heroic king leading his army.
At the time, Bohemia was caught in the crossfire between Bavaria and Saxony, with some wars against the Magyars thrown in for extra suffering.  Wenceslaus had inherited an alliance with Arnulf the Bad of Bavaria, but then Arnulf reconciled with King Henry the Fowler of Saxony.  They quickly led their armies to the gates of Prague to let Wenceslaus know he was odd man out.  He fought to a draw and agreed to pay tribute, placing Bohemia in the German sphere of influence.  [Fast forward to March 15, 1939 -- Herr Hitler was still regarding Bohemia as German territory.]

David Cerny's view of the King, riding a dead horse
Six years later, his brother, Boleslav the Cruel, organized a hit that was worthy of Francis Ford Coppola.  He invited Wenceslaus to a feast on the day of Saint Cosmas, and then had three friends strike him down outside the church as he headed to Mass.  On the same day, Boleslav's second son was born.  He named the boy Strachkvas (dreadful feast) in a public display of remorse for his brother's murder.  He also dedicated the boy to a life within the Church; Dreadful Feast grew up to be bishop of Prague.

I'm not exactly clear on what saintly deeds Wenceslaus did.  He was murdered outside a church, and in that sense, I suppose we might consider him a martyr, though he hardly died for the faith.  He did, as he died, utter forgiveness for his killers, which is somewhat miraculous and certainly in the spirit of Christ.  But as a national figure with a dormant army under a mountain, waiting to ride forth in Czech's darkest hour, perhaps the emphasis is on patron more than saint. 

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