Sunday, April 24, 2016
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
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Double (1955 Calendar): April 22

St. Fidelis was born in Sigmaringen, Germany in 1577 as Mark Rey.  A lawyer by profession, Mark traveled much across Europe as a tutor to various aristocratic families before starting on a project to defend the poor.  In 1612, he became a Franciscan Capuchin monk and took the name Fidelis.

St. Fidelis served as a missionary to Grisons, Switzerland and had so much success that the protestants claimed he was a spy for the Austrian emperor.  He was stabbed to death in a church by a group of protestant heretics.  He died with the final words, "Lord, forgive my enemies."

He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746.

Traditional Matins Reading:

Fidelis was bom at Sigmaringen, a town of Swabia. His parents, whose name was Rey, were of a respectable family. He was remarkable, even when a child, for his extraordinary gifts both of nature and grace. Blessed with talent of a high order, and trained to virtue by an excellent education, he received at Freiburg the wellmerited honours of Doctor in Philosophy and in Civil and Canon Law, at the same time that, in the school of Christ, he strove to attain the height of perfection by the assiduous practice of all virtues. Being requested to accompany several noblemen in their travels through various countries of Europe, he lost no opportunity of encouraging them, both by word and example, to lead a life of Christian piety. In these travels, he moreover mortified the desires of the flesh by frequent austerities; and such was the mastery he gained over himself, that in the midst of all the trouble and excitement, he was never seen to lose his temper in the slightest degree. He was a strenuous upholder of law and justice, and, after his return to Germany, he acquired considerable reputation as an advocate. But finding that this profession was replete with danger, he resolved to enter on the path that would best lead him to eternal salvation. Thus enlightened by the divine call, he shortly afterwards asked to be admitted into the Seraphic Order, among the Capuchin Friars.

His pious wish being granted, he showed from the very commencement of his novitiate how thoroughly he despised the world and himself; and when, with spiritual joy, he had offered to God the vows of solemn profession, his regular observance was such as to make him the admiration of, and a model to, all around him. He devoted himself to prayer and to sacred studies; as also to preaching, for which he had a special grace, and by which he not only converted Catholics from a life of wickedness to one of virtue, but also drew heretics to a knowledge of the truth. He was appointed superior in several convents of his Order, and fulfilled his office with admirable prudence, justice, meekness, discretion and humility. His zeal for strict poverty was so great, that he would allow nothing to be in the convent which was not absolutely necessary. He practised severe fasting, watching and disciplines, out of holy hatred against himself; whereas his love towards others was that of a mother for her children. A contagious fever having broken out among the Austrian soldiers, causing frightful mortality, he devoted his whole energies to untiring acts of charity in favour of the sick, whose sufferings were extreme. So admirable was he, both in advice and action, in settling disputes, and relieving everyone in trouble or trial, that he won for himself the name of the Father of his country.

He was extremely devout to the Virgin Mother of God, and a zealous promoter of the Rosary. He besought of God, through the intercession of this Blessed Mother firstly, and then through that of all the Saints, that he might be allowed to shed his blood and lay down his life for the Catholic faith. This ardent desire was increased by the daily and devout celebration of the Holy Sacrifice; and at length, by the wonderful providence of God, this valiant soldier of Christ was placed at the head of the missions recently established among the Grisons, by the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. Fidelis undertook this arduous task with a ready and cheerful heart, and laboured in it with such earnestness, that he converted many heretics to the true faith, and inspired the hope that the whole of that people would be reconciled to the Church and to Christ. He had the gift of prophecy, and frequently predicted the calamities that were to befall the Grisons, as also his own death by the hands of the heretics. Being fully aware of the plot laid against him, he prepared himself for the combat, and, on the twenty-fourth day of April, in the year I622, he repaired to the church of a place called Seewis. Hither had the heretics, on the previous day, invited him to come and preach, pretending that they wished to be converted. Whilst he was preaching, he was interrupted by their clamours. They rushed upon him, cruelly struck and wounded him even to death He suffered it with courage and joy, thus consecrating by his blood the first-fruits of the martyrs of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. His name was rendered illustrious by many miracles, especially at Coire, and Veltkirch, where his relics are kept, and honoured by the people with exceeding great veneration.

Collect:

O God, You set the heart of Fidelis on fire with a seraphic love, and granted him both the triumph of martyrdom and the gift of miracles in preaching the true faith. May his merits and prayers make us strong in faith and love, so that by Your grace we may be faithful in Your service until death. Through Our Lord . . .

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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