Born in the year 907, Saint Wenceslaus lived in a period of great political unrest. He was the son of the Duke of Bohemia and grew up a pagan. His grandmother St. Ludmilla introduced Wenceslaus to Christianity.
Filled with jealousy at Ludmilla’s relationship and influence over Wenceslaus, his mother Drahomira ended up murdering her mother due to her faith.
Would you be prepared to stand up to your own children for the Gospel? Would you maintain your faith in God against the pressure of your parents? St. Wenceslaus reminds us that our adopted family (and Father) will not abandon us. He also has a curious connection to St. Stephen, the first martyr.
Seasoning and Sanctification
I first learned of this Bohemian saint during Advent when I was in elementary school. Preparing for the Christmas Concert we were in music class singing Good King Wenceslaus. Obviously, I must have been struggling to listen that day because I remember singing at home “Food and let’s bring your favorite sauce!”
Speaking of sauces and saints, the holy ones in heaven act as a seasoning for the dull world of sin. In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus invited his disciples to be “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). He used the example of salt because of its universal application and practical usage in daily living. He calls Christians to act as a theological flavor and preservative to society.
St. Wenceslaus definitely acted as a preservative for a war-torn society. He sought peace and promoted Christianity. Despite rising to ruler of Bohemia at a young age, Wenceslaus ruled justly. Power corrupts naturally corrupts and individual. Guided by the superpower graces of the Holy Spirit, leaders like Wenceslaus used their power for good.
The service of kingship
Along with being a contradiction, a seasoning, to a pagan and violent society, St. Wenceslaus demonstrated a servant leadership in caring for the poor. The hymn Good King Wenceslaus has traditionally been associated with St. Stephen. It opens by mentioning the feast of Stephen (December 26th). A beggar man is suffering the cold of winter and Wencleslaus invites him in to care for him and feed him.
While the Bohemian saint was actually a Duke, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I granted him the title king posthumously. The world considers kings as men with great physical power and wealth, but that is not the main trait of a monarch. True kings serve.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 786, “the people of God share in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'” Wenceslaus displayed his share in the kingly office of Jesus when he served the poor.
The feast of St. Wenceslaus will be a great opportunity for you ponder how you treat the poor in your community. His feast will help prepare us for the solemnity of Christ the King, Christmas, and the Feast of St. Stephen. All truth tends toward unity. Let us thank God for the wonderful witness of St. Wenceslaus as an example of Christ’s love and sacrifice!