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THURSDAY HOMILY: St. Stanislaus Teaches Us to Obey God Rather than Men

By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This struggle between the law of God and the laws of men is not a new experience for the Christian Church. We must always "obey God rather than men" when confronted with a conflict of loyalties.St. Stanislaus of Poland demonstrates the courage of a man totally given over to service to the only eternal King, Jesus Christ. In doing so, he also reveals the same courage demonstrated by Peter and the Apostles. His holiness and godly character led the faithful of his time to live their faith when faced with the oppression that can come from unjust rulers. 

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - As we continue in the Easter season our readings from the daily Catholic Liturgy tell us of the heroic missionary witness of an early Church truly living the implications of their Resurrection faith. These Christians were certainly not confused concerning their Catholic identity. They were unashamed of stating clearly that Jesus Christ is the only name by which men and women can be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Today, as the story of these courageous witnesses unfolds, we see several of their leaders, led by Peter, brought before the Sanhedrin: "When the court officers had brought the Apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, "We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us."

"But Peter and the Apostles said in reply, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him." When they heard this, they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death." (Acts 5:27-33)

This struggle between the law of God and the laws of men is not a new experience for the Christian Church. We must always "obey God rather than men" when confronted with a conflict of loyalties. While Christians are to be good citizens we must first, in the words of the great evangelist Paul, remember that our lasting "citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). St. Paul told the Christians in Rome: "I am under obligation; that is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel! It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes"(Romans 1) We are still "under obligation".

On April 11, Catholic Christians following the Western Church Calendar also commemorate a heroic son of Poland, the Bishop and Martyr St. Stanislaus. He was born in 1030 near Krakow, in the town of Szczepanow to a wealthy family. This nobleman by birth would hear the call to another way of life, the way of following the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, who became poor so that we might find true riches. Educated in Gnesen he responded to the Holy Spirit's call to Holy Orders in service to the Church.

It was Bishop Lambert of Krakow who ordained him to the priesthood. Years later, the holy priest would be called to replace Bishops Lambert and become the Bishop of Krakow in 1071. He was chosen by both the Bishop, who deeply admired the priest, and by the faithful who loved him and saw in him Christ's character and true compassion for the poor. He was known to be a truly holy man and his preaching and teaching led many to embrace the faith or to live it more fervently in a difficult time in Poland. He was also beloved by the clergy, visiting them regularly and showing them the love of a spiritual father.

Poland was ruled by a cruel and corrupt King named Boleslaus II who cared neither for the faithful nor for God. The Nation was under the thumb of a tyrant. Bishop Stanislaus regularly confronted the King and called him to reform his life and care for the people entrusted to him. The Kind followed neither admonition. In fact, he became increasingly angered by the good Bishop. Bishop Stanislaus was not intimidated and one account indicates he used the most severe rod of correction to seek the conversion of the King - he excommunicated him and called him to repentance.

The King raged against the Bishop. In fact, he became so overcome with hatred that he waited outside the Chapel of St. Michael, outside of Krakow one morning. While the Bishop was celebrating Holy Mass, the King entered the sanctuary and killed him with his own sword. So vicious and filled with hatred was this tyrant that he then had Bishop Stanislaus dismembered and tried to hide the evil deed.  However, the Saint's relics were recovered and placed in veneration at the Cathedral of Krakow. He died in 1097.

St. Stanislaus of Poland demonstrates the courage of a man totally given over to service to the only eternal King, Jesus Christ. In doing so, he also reveals the same courage demonstrated by Peter and the Apostles. His holiness and godly character led the faithful of his time to live their faith when faced with the oppression that can come from unjust rulers.

His Bishop's heart toward his priests ensured that the Clergy of his day persevered even when they were oppressed. When faced with the call to leadership in the Church in an hour when an unjust King threatened the Church and rejected God, he did not back down.

First, he sought to assist the King to find the path to conversion and change. Then, he refused to compromise. He became a martyr, a word derived from a Greek word which means witness. Though not yet called to shed our own blood for the faith, we are all called to be witnesses. We can learn from this champion of Poland how to embrace our own calling in a hostile culture.

Prayer: Father, may the example of St. Stanislaus of Poland inspire the people of Poland and throughout the world to follow Jesus Christ even in the midst of oppression from ungodly governments. May his holiness of life and dedication to prayer be an example to each one of us in our own state in life and vocation. May his holy priesthood and Episcopal service inspire priests, bishops and deacons in our own time to care for the faithful and stand up to those who persecute the Church, without fear for their own safety, willing to even shed their blood if called to do so.

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