How's your week going? More importantly, how's your bracket looking? At one level, who cares, right? As long as you're learning about some inspiring saintly souls and having some fun along the way, that's what really matters. And that's what this whole crazy online Lenten devotion is all about.
Is Lent Madness fair? No. Is it frustrating? Sometimes. But keep your eye on the prize! And that prize is the Golden Halo.
But that's a long way off! Today, we get Stanislaus the Martyr vs. Edmund. Patron saint of Poland vs. the patron saint (some would say) of England.
Yesterday, Enmegahbowh advanced against Dorothy Sayers 58% to 42%.
Time to vote!
Stanislaus the Martyr
Stanislaus of Kraków, also called Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów, is canonized in the Catholic church as the first patron saint of Poland. When we don’t know much about a person’s life, their story can take on legendary qualities.
Stanislaus was born in Szczepanów, a town near Kraków, on July 26, 1030. After attending cathedral schools in Gniezno, the capital of Poland at that time, and then in Paris, Stanislaus was ordained a priest. He was named archdeacon to the bishop of Kraków and was known for his excellent preaching. His way of life set a good example for many people, and he was known for hearing confessions from both clergy and laity where people changed their lives because of his counsel. In 1072, after the bishop’s death, he was named bishop of Kraków and only accepted the role at the command of Pope Alexander II. Stanislaus was one of the first native Polish bishops and influenced Polish politics. He brought papal legates, or representatives, to Poland and encouraged King Boleslaw II the Generous (also known as King Boleslaw the Bold) to help spread Christianity in Poland by establishing Benedictine monasteries.
Some people in Poland opposed King Boleslaw because of his immoral behavior, support of incompetent rulers, and unjust wars. Stanislaus took the opposition’s side, led by the king’s brother, Wladyslaw Herman. Bishop Stanislaus excommunicated King Boleslaw, which means the king could not participate in the life of the church. This act led to Stanislaus’s death. He was charged with treason in 1079 and sentenced to dismemberment.
When King Boleslaw sent men to execute Bishop Stanislaus, no one would touch him. So, the king killed Stanislaus himself while he was saying mass in the Wawel castle. The guards cut up his body and scattered the pieces. People were outraged by Stanislaus’s death; King Boleslaw was overthrown, and his brother became king.
Stanislaus’s story is full of legend, to be sure. Whether he was a traitor or a hero is still up for debate. We know that Stanislaus stood up for injustice and lost his life for his words and actions. As followers of Jesus, may we learn courage and fearlessness from Stanislaus’s example.
Collect for Stanislaus the Martyr
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Stanislaus: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
While Edmund is a Turkish delight-eating fictional character in The Chronicles of Narnia, Saint Edmund is most assuredly not—he was king of East Anglia from 855 until his death in pre-Norman England.
In 793, the Vikings raided Lindisfarne, the Holy Island and monastery in Northumberland, destroying the church and monastic community there. By 866, the Vikings arrived in East Anglia where Edmund was king. Their presence was brutal: they showed “special ferocity” toward those regarded as representatives of Christianity. In Peterborough, one abbot and his community of 84 were all slain; raids in the marshes of eastern England killed all of the monks at Bardney, Ely, and Croyland. In defense of his country and his faith, Edmund led forces against the Viking threat. When “The Great Heathen Army” attacked East Anglia in 868, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recounts that “King Edmund fought against them, and the Danish took the victory, and killed the king and conquered all that land.” Edmund gave his life for his people and their faith, counting him among the martyrs.
One story of Edmund’s death is particularly notable for his confession of faith. While bound and captured, Edmund was beaten. “In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Savior Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a hedgehog.” Edmund was ultimately decapitated.
In 1010, Edmund’s remains were moved to London to protect them from the Vikings, who had a notable interest in snuffing out any memory of his resistance. When the Viking King Canute converted to Christianity, he was instrumental in founding an abbey at Bury St. Edmunds, with Edmund’s shrine as a centerpiece. The abbey became a site of pilgrimage for many across England. After the Norman Conquest, a large town grew up around the monastery, which thrived until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. In 1539, Edmund’s shrine was destroyed. Today, Edmund’s memory is kept and nurtured, including by some who moved to make him the patron saint of England as recently as 2013.
Collect for Edmund
Merciful God, who gave grace and fortitude to Edmund to die nobly for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith, with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Stanislaus the Martyr: Farkasven, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Edmund: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons