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The sound of Alleluias fills the 50 days of Easter Sunday to Pentecost as we give thanks for the gift of our salvation. The Easter Triduum recalls the passion and resurrection of Christ in the sacred journey from Holy Thursday to Easter Vigil. "Dying he destroyed our death. Rising he restored our life."
Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, 1030-1079
Stanislaus was the only child of noble family from a town near Cracow, Poland. Childless for many years of marriage, his parents’ prayers were answered with his birth. In thanksgiving, they dedicated his life to God.
Stanislaus was educated in Gnesen and in Paris and was ordained by Bishop Lambert Zula of Cracow who gave him a canonry and later appointed him his archdeacon and preacher. The young priest soon became known for his preaching and he was able to bring about a reformation of the morals of the people of Cracow including many clergy.
Bishop Lambert wished to resign his episcopacy in favor of Stanislaus, but the priest would not hear of it. Nevertheless, upon the death of Lambert, he was overwhelmingly chosen bishop by the people. Their choice was ratified by the pope and Stanislaus reluctantly became the bishop of Cracow in 1072. The bishop proved a worthy shepherd, tireless in the care of his flock and tending especially to the poor of his see.
Boleslaus II, the ruler of Poland at the time, was noted for his uncontrolled lust and brutality. Stanislaus was the only person who would speak out against this tyrant’s cruelty. For a time, Boleslaus appeared to be repentant, but this soon wore off and he fell back into his old ways. The final straw occurred when Boleslaus had the beautiful wife of a nobleman abducted and carried off to his palace. The Polish nobles went first to the archbishop of Gnesen, then the capitol of Poland, and his court to have them denounce this act, but the fear of offending Boleslaus caused them to remain silent.
Stanislaus was not so restrained. He went to Boleslaus and condemned him for this abduction. He warned the king that he would be excommunicated if he persisted in his sinful ways. The king reacted angrily, and he set about slandering the bishop.
The story is told that Stanislaus had bought some land for a church from a man who died soon after. It was suggested to the man’s nephews that the land was never paid for and that they should claim it back. When the case came before the king, he would allow no witnesses for the defense and a verdict for the plaintiffs was certain until Stanislaus called upon the dead man to exonerate him. The dead man appeared in the court, wrapped in his shroud, and vindicated the bishop.
Finding that his reprimand had no effect on Boleslaus, Stanislaus followed through with the excommunication. At first, the king ignored this sentence, but upon entering the cathedral, the services were suspended at Stanislaus’ order. This completely enraged the king. With a small band of troops, Boleslaus followed Stanislaus to a small chapel outside of Cracow where they found the bishop celebrating Mass. The king ordered his troops to go in and kill the bishop. When they could not carry out this command, Boleslaus himself went into the chapel and killed Stanislaus.
One tradition is that Boleslaus, finally remorseful, left Poland and spent the rest of his life in repentance in a monastery. Butler tells us that while there was no immediate popular uprising, this murder hastened Boleslaus’ fall from power.
St. Stanislaus is the patron of Cracow. A memorial celebrates this saint’s life on April 11.
Stanislaus' message today: This saint finds himself in the good company of saints like John the Baptist, Thomas Becket and Thomas More. Like them, he opposed the tyranny of a despot and, like them, he paid with his life. We often hear a great hue and cry about the separation of church and state and, usually, this is a good thing. There are times, however, when the church must take a stand for what is right in the same way that Stanislaus did.