16 August 2008

'Above all things . . . preserve the Catholic, apostolic faith . . .'

St Stephen of Hungary, c.969 - 15 August 1038.

Today the Church honours St Stephen of Hungary, Szent István in Hungarian, though in the Philippines we celebrate San Roque ( previous post). Read about him here and here.

The Second Reading from the Office of Readings is an extract from a letter of the saint to his son Imre. Here are some quotes.

My dear son, if you would grace the kingly crown, I advise and counsel you above all things to preserve the Catholic, apostolic faith with such care that you may be an example to all the subjects given you by God, and all the clergy can say that you are truly a Christian. But if you fail to do this you may be certain that you cannot be called either a Christina or a son of the Church.

I wonder what he would think of 'Catholic' politicians who cling on to power at all costs, 'Catholic' politicians who promote abortion, with or without the fig leaf of 'I'm personally opposed . . .' I'm sure too that he would add 'or a daughter' to 'or a son' for those who profess not to know the difference between the inclusive and exclusive senses of certain words.

For this reason there is all the greater need for more prudent and evident watchfulness so that the great gift bestowed by the divine mercy on us, unworthy as we are, may not be destroyed and brought to nothing through your apathy, indolence and neglect.

Dear son, the joy of my heart,hope of generations yet to come, I pray you, nay, I command you, at all times, in all things, strengthened by your sense of duty, to be gracious, not only to your fmaily and kinsmen, to princes, noblemen, the rich, your neighbours, your countrymen, but also to strangers and to everyone who approaches you.

St Stephen clearly had a strong sense of everything being gift from God, something I'm becoming more and more conscious of, not only for the individual but for the community and for future generations. Pope Benedict asked the young people at WYD in Sydney what they'd pass on to the next generation. He has also spoken frequently about our need to respect creation itself as a gift from God, to be cared for so that we can hand on life to future generations.

Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak and feeble.

He would be very counter-cultural, as we say these days, by his final admonition to Prince Imre: Fly from all temptation to lust as you would from the stench of death.

The reading concludes: These are the virtues which crown a king. Unless he has them, no man is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the kingdom of heaven.

At present we have one 'Catholic' Robert Mugabe, who has brought his country, Zimbabwe, to its knees in an effort to cling on to power when he should be preparing to meet his Maker. Here in the Philippines President Gloria M. Arroyo parades her Catholic piety but under her corruption has become worse than even under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, with no sense of shame whatever. There are signs, say many responsible commentators, that she is trying to cling on to power beyond 2010 when her term ends. We'll see.

St Stephen, King of Hungary and now its patron saint, lived 1000 years ago but we can learn from him - and pray to him for our rulers.

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