SAINT ADALBERT of PRAGUE (c.956-997), bishop, missionary and martyr – patron saint of Bohemia, the Czech Republic, Prague and Prussia
Opposition to the Good News of Jesus Christ did not discourage Adalbert, who is remembered with great honor by the Church, together with the peoples in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Germany, especially due to the fact that he stood up against the pagan practices of Central Europe during the 10th century.
Originally given the name of Wojtech, he was born to a noble family in Bohemia about the year 956 A.D., and, at the request of his parents, he received his education from Archbishop Adalbert of Magdeburg, a Benedictine missionary who would later be canonized in his own right. The archbishop gave the young student his own name at confirmation, setting an example that the boy would follow in his own life as a bishop and missionary.
At the age of twenty-seven, he was ordained to the priesthood, and, only a few short months later, was consecrated as bishop of Prague. “It is an easy thing to wear the miter and a cross”, Bishop Adalbert reflected, “but it is a most dreadful circumstance to have an account to give of a bishopric to the Judge of the living and the dead.”
The new bishop took steps to reform the finances of his diocese, ensuring that his own expenses made up only a small portion of the budget. Meanwhile, Bishop Adalbert slept on the floor, fasted regularly, gave sermons almost daily, and visited poor neighborhoods and prisons.
But in six years of constant prayer, fasting and preaching, he made little headway among the Bohemians. The low point came when he unsuccessfully attempted to shield a woman convicted of adultery from a mob that sought to kill her. He responded by excommunicating the murderers, but the public seemed to favor the killers rather than the bishop.
Frustrated and dejected, and fearing that he would be driven to despair, Bishop Adalbert, with papal permission, left and became a missionary to the Hungarians. In time, Adalbert attempted to resume his duties as the bishop of Prague. This time, however, the citizens defied him openly. A Bohemian prince named Boleslaus went so far as to kill several of Adalbert’s relatives and burn their homes, in order to make it clear how unwelcome the bishop’s presence would be felt among those in his own diocese.
Rejected by his own people, Adalbert decided to begin a mission to the pagan tribes in Poland and northeastern Germany. He successfully converted many of them, but eventually encountered the same hostility that had driven him from his diocese. This was partly because he denounced the native practices of tree-worship and human sacrifice, but also because he was falsely suspected of being a Polish spy.
A pagan priest eventually captured Adalbert and those who followed him, binding them and taking them hostage while they slept. Adalbert prayed aloud, offering his own life to God and begging forgiveness for his attackers.
The pagan priest thrust a lance into Adalbert’s chest, and he was repeatedly stabbed by others. He died of his wounds on April 23rd in the year 997. He was canonized a saint by Pope Sylvester II only two years later in 999 A.D.
We commemorate his feastday on April 23.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for One Martyr)
“All-powerful, Ever-living God, You gave Saint Adalbert the courage to witness to the Gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. By his prayers, help us to endure all suffering for love of You and to seek You with all our hearts, for You alone are the Source of life.
“Grant 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.”