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April 23

St Adalbert of Prague - April 23

Saint Adalbert of Prague

Bishop and Martyr

(Around 956 – 997)

“It is an easy thing to wear the mitre and a cross, 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.

Saint Adalbert of Prague

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Adalbert was born in Libice nad Cidlinou, Bohemia (part of modern Czech Republic) around 957 to Bohemian nobility. He was christened Voytech. After Adalbert survived a grave illness in childhood, his parents decided to dedicate him to the service of God. Adalbert was well educated. From approximately 970 to 980, he studied in Magdeburg under Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg. Vojtěch took his tutor’s name “Adalbert” at his confirmation.

Priest to Bishop in a Year

In 981, Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg died. His young protege Adalbert returned to Bohemia. Later, Bishop Dietmar of Prague ordained him a Catholic priest. In 982, Bishop Dietmar died. In 983, while still under 30, Adalbert was chosen to succeed him as Bishop of Prague. Although Adalbert was from a wealthy family, he avoided comfort and luxury, and was noted for his charity and austerity.

High Moral Standards

As a man of high moral as well as intellectual standards, he visited the imprisoned and the poor, and divided his revenues according to the guidelines established by Saint Gregory the Great. With the zeal of Christian youth, he tried to convert Hungary and Bohemia, but the pastoral and political difficulties were great.  After six years of preaching and prayer, Adalbert had made little headway in evangelizing the Bohemians, who maintained deeply embedded pagan beliefs. 

Adalbert opposed the participation of Christians in the slave trade and complained of polygamy and idolatry. Once he started to propose reforms, he was met with opposition from both the secular powers and the clergy. His family refused to support Duke Boleslaus in an unsuccessful war against Poland. Adalbert was no longer welcome and eventually forced into exile.

Exiled to Rome and Back as Bishop of Prague

In 990, Adalbert withdrew in desperation to Rome, Italy. There, he became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on April 17, 990, at Saint Alexius on the Aventine. Five years later, Boleslaus requested that the Pope send Adalbert back to Prague, in hopes of securing his family’s support. Pope John XV agreed, with the understanding that Adalbert was free to leave Prague if he continued to encounter entrenched resistance. Adalbert returned as bishop of Prague, where he was initially received with demonstrations of apparent joy. Together with a group of Italian Benedictine monks which brought with him, he founded in January 14, 993, a monastery in Břevnov (now part of Prague), the second oldest monastery in Czech.

Adalbert unsuccessfully attempted to protect a noblewoman caught in adultery. She had fled to a convent, where she was killed. In upholding the right of sanctuary, Bishop Adalbert responded by excommunicating the murderers. 

Exiled to Rome Again

After this, Adalbert could not safely stay in Bohemia. So he escaped from Prague and went back to Rome in 995. Strachkvas was eventually appointed to be his successor. However, Strachkvas suddenly died during the liturgy at which he was to accede to his episcopal office in Prague. The cause of his death is still ambiguous. The Pope directed Adalbert to resume his see. However, believing that he would not be allowed back, Adalbert requested a brief as an itinerant missionary.

Missionary in Hungary Baptizing Saint Stephen

Adalbert then traveled to Hungary and probably baptized Géza of Hungary and his son Stephen in Esztergom. Then, he went to Poland. There, Adalbert was cordially welcomed by then-Duke Boleslaus I and installed as Bishop of Gniezno.

Adalbert again relinquished his diocese, this time of Gniezno. He set out as a missionary to preach to the inhabitants near Prussia. Bishop Adalbert and his companions entered Prussian territory and traveled along the coast of the Baltic Sea to Gdańsk.

But Adalbert had no more success there. He and his fellow missionaries nevertheless persevered in their mission, preaching in Poland, Prussia, Hungary, and even Russia. Saint Stephen of Hungary was baptized by Adalbert.

Iternant Missionary

Adalbert was forced to leave this first village in Prussia after being struck in the back of the head by an oar by a local chieftain. He and his companions then fled across a river.  The next place that Adalbert tried to preach, his message was met with the locals banging their sticks upon the ground, calling for the death of Adalbert and his companions. 

Retreating once again, Adalbert and his companions went to a market place of Truso (near modern-day Elbląg). Here, they were met with a similar response as at the previous place.

The execution of Saint Adalbert of Prague by the pagan -Gniezno_Cathedral_Doors

His Martyrdom

On the April 23, 997, after mass, while Adalbert and his companions lay in the grass while eating a snack, they were set upon by a pagan mob. The mob was led by a man named Sicco, possibly a pagan priest,who delivered the first blow against Adalbert, before the others joined in. They removed Adalbert’s head from his body after he was dead. His head was mounted on a pole while they returned home.

Despite the disappointments of his career, Saint Adalbert of Prague seems to have had considerable influence. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III, encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and inspired Saint Boniface of Querfurt. The bishop was buried at Gniezno, but in 1039 his relics were translated to Prague. Adalbert’s cultus was widespread in central Europe, reflecting his importance in the conversion of the people. The saint is also credited with the composition of Czech and Polish hymns in the vernacular. In art, Saint Adalbert holds a two-headed cross, two lances, and a club. 

Born:                   Around 956 in Libice nad Cidlinou, Bohemia (Czech Republic)

Died:                   April 23, 997 in Swiety Gaj, Poland or Primorsk, Russia

Beatified:           Unknown

Canonized:        999 by Pope Sylvester II

Feast Day:         April 23

Patron Saint:    Poland, Czech Republic, and Archdiocese of Prague, Czech Republic

Source:

Reflection

Saint Adalbert of Prague’s life is a powerful story of faith, courage, and dedication. His journey from a noble family to a martyred missionary underscores the transformative power of a deep commitment to Christ. His missionary work exemplifies the importance of evangelization and the spread of the Gospel, even when facing danger and the death of martyr for the sake of sharing his faith. His life should be an inspiration for us all.

Although your audience may not be dangerous like Saint Adalbert of Prague’s was, who can you tell the Good News to today – whether with your words and/or by your actions?

Prayers

Saint Adalbert of Prague,

Your life was full of disappointments; from your multiple exiles as Bishop to your unsuccessful attempts at converting pagans to Christianity that resulted in your martyrdom. However, over a thousand years after your martyrdom,  your “failures” have not stop inspiring others from Saint Boniface of Querfurt to peoples of Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, as well as others all over the world. Saint Adalbert, intercede for us as we try to continue our evangelization efforts in word and deed through our “failures”.

St. Adalbert of Prague, Pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Adalbert of Prague

AnaStpaul – St Adalbert of Prague, Bishop and Martyr

Catholic News Agency – St. Adalbert of Prague Feast Day: Apr 23

Catholic Online – St. Adalbert of Prague

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Adalbert of Prague

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Adalbert of Prague by Katherine I Rabenstein

Daily Prayers – Adalbert of Prague

Franciscan Media – Saint Adalbert of Prague

New Advent – Campbell, T. (1907). St. Adalbert. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

WikipediaAdalbert of Prague

Video Link

St. Adalbert – YouTube (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)