SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN (1577-1622), priest and martyr
If a poor man needed some clothing, Father Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint’s life, about whom the universal Church honors today.
Born in 1577 in Sigmaringen, Prussia (modern day Germany), Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) was a philosophy professor and a lawyer in both canon and civil law, who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people.
Nicknamed “the poor man’s lawyer,” Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career and was ordained a priest one year later, joining his brother as a member of the Friars Minor of the Capuchin Order, distributing his wealth among needy seminarians and the poor.
As a follower of Saint Francis of Assisi, Father Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. Once, during a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and healed many sick soldiers.
From the beginning of his apostolic career, he was untiring in his efforts to convert both heretics and those who had abandoned their faith. Father Fidelis was sent to Switzerland by the newly established Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (initially called the Congregation for the Propaganda of the Faith) to lead a mission to convert those who were being misled and drawn away from the Church.
The success which he attained was attributed to his practice of regularly spending entire nights praying before the Blessed Sacrament, and he confided to one of his Capuchin brothers that he constantly asked God for two favors; the first was that he might never fall into mortal sin, and, the second, that he might die for the faith.
The second favor was granted him on April 24, 1622. On that day, after celebrating Mass, he entered the Seewis region in Switzerland and had begun to preach, when he was set upon by a crowd of heretics who demanded that he renounce his Catholic faith or suffer death.
Refusing their demands, Father Fidelis died at their hands, all the while praying that his assailants be forgiven. He thus became the first martyr for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. He was canonized a saint on June 29, 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV.
We commemorate his feastday on April 24.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Fidelis)
“Father, you filled Saint Fidelis with the fire of Your Love and gave him the privilege of dying that the faith might live. Let his prayers keep us firmly grounded in Your Love, and help us to come to know the power of Christ’s Resurrection.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”