Friday, August 16, 2019

S. Stephen of Hungary

I took this photo during the Chrism Mass 
at S. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest,
where I spent Holy Week, 2011. 

The first King of Hungary, Vaik (Vojk), born in 975, was the son of Hungarian chieftain Géza. They were baptised together in 985 by S. Adalbert, the Archbishop of Prague., and Vaik was given his Christian name, Stephen. In 995, he married Gisela, a sister of Henry, the Duke of Bavaria, the future Emperor S. Henry II, and in 997 he succeeded his father as chief of the Hungarian Magyars.

Stephen's vision for Hungary to become a Christian nation that was stable politically as well as a just, safe civilisation for its people, required a firm hand and the development of suitable administration. So he sent the Abbot Astricus to Rome to petition Pope Sylvester II for the royal dignity and the power to establish episcopal sees. The pope acceded to his wishes and, in addition, presented Stephen with a royal crown in recognition of his sovereignty.

As King of the Hungarians, Stephen sought above all to establish the nation on a sound moral foundation and to that end he suppressed blasphemy, murder, adultery and other public crimes, and established a feudal system throughout Hungary. To this day he is regarded as the architect of the independent realm of Hungary. 

Stephen founded a monastery in Jerusalem and hospices for pilgrims at Rome, Ravenna, and Constantinople. A close friend of St. Bruno, he also corresponded with St. Odilo of Cluny.

Unfortunately in his later years he had to deal with illness and family troubles. In 1031 his only son, Emeric, was killed on a bear hunt, this dashing Stephen's plans to transfer the reins of government to a genuinely Christian prince. Arguments arose among his nephews about the right of succession, and some of them even participated in a conspiracy against his life. 

S. Stephen of Hungary was buried beside his son at Stuhlweissenburg, and both were canonised together in 1083.

Here is the second reading from today's Office of Readings, taken from words written by S. Stephen to his son, Emeric:

Son, listen to your father's instruction

My dearest son, if you desire to honour the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession.  Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first propagated as she was by our head, Christ; then transplanted, firmly constituted and spread through the whole world by his members, the apostles and holy fathers. And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.

However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.  Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death. 

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain the heavenly kingdom.

From admonitions to his son by Saint Stephen
(Cap. 1, 2, 10; PL 151, 1236-1237, 1242-1244)


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