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St. Stephen of Hungary

by Very Rev. Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem.

 

“Everyone who listens to these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”

St. Stephen of Hungary was not the first king of that land.  He was, however, the one who established it as a Christian nation.  Born in 975 and baptized in 985, he inherited the throne of Hungary in 997.  In addition to placing his kingdom under the pope as a papal protectorate, he petitioned Pope Sylvester II for the royal dignity and the right to establish episcopal sees, which were both granted along with the gift of a royal crown, wherewith he was crown King of Hungary on August 17th, 1001.

But Christianity was new in those pagan lands.  So, he first welcomed German priests, nobles, and knights to help evangelize Hungary, often enough by the sword…which turns out not to be a missionary strategy thought well of today.  It worked, though.  And then many German, French, and Italian ecclesiastics entered his kingdom to help solidify the Church.  He founded and organized Hungary’s dioceses, and built many monasteries and convents within his own borders, in addition to a monastery in Jerusalem and hospices for pilgrims in Rome, Ravenna, and Constantinople.  In short, he believed in the Gospel with all his heart, did his utmost for the Church to embrace his country, and showed a larger ecclesial understanding by his international works of charity.  

Christ was the rock; St. Peter was the rock; St. Peter’s confession of faith was the rock upon which the wise St. Stephen built the house of his Christian kingdom, and the storms of political upheaval have not caused it to collapse—not even the Communists, who are special enemies of God and His Church.  The Hungarian government today sees itself as the one St. Stephen founded.

It is as if St. Stephen himself heard the blessing the Lord pronounced upon Abram as given to himself: “Go forth from the land of your [pagan] kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a [Christian] land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.  All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”

Because St. Stephen’s Hungary was fertile Christian land, the first fervor of Norbertines established St. Michael’s Abbey in Csorna there in 1180.  Because the winds and floods of communism temporarily suppressed St. Stephen’s kingdom, we now have St. Michael Abbey in Orange.  And because of that grace, not only have innumerable sacraments been administered over 6,100 miles away, but all over the globe through the internet have people shared in the light of Christ.  Truly, all communities of the earth have found blessing in St. Stephen.  Because he insisted on founding his house upon the rock of Christ.

May St. Stephen continue to bless us, his spiritual heirs, as we continually build our community upon the same rock he did, so that indeed all nations will be blessed in him and stand solidly until the day of Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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