Saint Stephen of Hungary, Promoter of the Faith

Saint Stephen (977-1038), the first King of Hungary. was born the
son of Duke Geza, a Magyar chieftain, and Duchess Sarolt. Two
years before his birth, his mother received a vision in which the
Church’s first martyr, Saint Stephen, revealed to her that she
would bear a son who would bring the Good News to Hungary
and evangelize its people. Like his parents before him, Stephen
was baptized by Saint Adalbert. He married the daughter of Duke
Henry II in 996. A year later, he succeeded his father as leader.

Stephen devoted much of his reign to the promotion of
the Christian faith. He gave his patronage to Church leaders, constructed
numerous churches, and was a proponent of the rights of
the Holy See. He successfully repelled the pagan counter reaction
to Christianity, converting the large pagan population. Greatly
devoted to the Blessed Mother, Stephen had several churches
built in her honor both in and outside of Hungary. In recognition
of his efforts, Pope Silvester II named him king of Hungary in
1000.

King Stephen demonstrated great competence as a monarch,
while devoting the rest of his time to his religious duties,
especially charity toward the poor and sick, as well as the worship
of God, and to his household. Gisela, Stephen’s wife, was the sister
of the ruler later canonized as the Holy Roman Emperor Saint
Henry II. So great indeed was his zeal for the propagation of the
Faith, that he was called the Apostle of his nation. The Breviary
attests to St. Stephen’s holiness:

“St. Stephen introduced into Hungary both the Faith of
Christ and the regal dignity. He obtained his royal crown from the
Roman Pontiff; and having been, by his command, anointed King,
he offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. He built several
houses of charity at Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople; and
with a wonderfully munificent spirit of religion, he founded the
Archiepiscopal See of Gran and ten other bishoprics. His love for
the poor was equaled only by his generosity towards them; for,
seeing in them Christ Himself… It was his custom to wash the feet
of the poor with his own hands, and to visit the hospitals at night,
alone and unknown, serving the sick and showing them every
charity. As a reward for these good deeds his right hand remained
incorrupt after death,..”

Stephen survived all of his children, only one of which
grew to adulthood. His son, Emeric, who was his father’s equal in
holiness, and expected successor, tragically died in a hunting accident
(1031). Stephen died on August 15, 1038, the Feast of the
Assumption of our Lady, to whom he consecrated his kingdom,
and was buried in the new basilica, built in Székesfehérvár and
dedicated to the Holy Virgin. He was canonized by Pope Gregory
VII, along with his son, Emeric, and Bishop Gerard of Csanád, in
1083. Stephen is the patron saint of Hungary. Grant your Church,
we pray, almighty God, that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary
who fostered her growth while a king, as her heavenly defender.
Amen.

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