By Larry Peterson
Saint Hyacinth of Poland was born in Silesia, Poland, in the year 1185. His father was Eustachius Konski, and he was of the noble family of Ordowacz. Hyacinth’s parents were devout Catholics, and Hyacinth grew up in a home surrounded by love and kindness.
His well-formed disposition and strong faith, combined with a brilliant mind, allowed him to move quickly through schooling in Krakow, then Prague, and finally to Bologna in Italy. This is where he was awarded the title of Doctor of Law and Divinity. He returned to Poland and was given an administrative position at a medieval-style administrative center in southeast Poland.
The Bishop of Krakow, Ivo Konski, was Hyacinth’s uncle. He had been planning a trip to Rome, and he took his nephew with him. It was at this time in his life when he met Dominic de Guzman (who would later be known as St. Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Preachers; more commonly known as the Dominicans). Hyacinth, along with his cousin, Ceslaus, were among the very first to receive the religious habit of the Dominican Order. The year was 1220.
Hyacinth had developed a deep sense of prayer and was zealous in his desire to bring souls to salvation. Recognizing this quality, his superiors sent him back to Poland to preach and lay the groundwork for developing the Dominican order in his native land. A gifted preacher, Hyacinth’s sermons were received with great enthusiasm and before long he had established communities in Sandomir, Krakow, and in Moravia.
He traveled into Prussia, Pomerania, and into Lithuania leaving the presence of the growing Dominican order everywhere he went. He crossed the Baltic Sea and preached in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Before long, he was known as the “Apostle of the North.”
St. Hyacinth is known for performing a number of miracles. There is one miracle that stands out among all the rest; that would be the Miracle of Kiev. The Tartars had laid siege to the City of Kiev. Hyacinth was saying Mass and was unaware that the enemy was almost at the church doors. As he ended the Mass, he realized what was going on and that the attacking forces were about to enter and ransack the church.
Hyacinth did not hesitate. Determined to protect the consecrated Host and still fully vested, he took hold of the ciborium and began to run from the church. As he ran he passed by a statue of Mary. He heard a voice say, “Hyacinth, my son, why dost thou leave me behind? Take me with thee and leave me not to my enemies.”
The statue was made of alabaster and was very heavy. Hyacinth stopped, turned, and seeing the figure of Our Lady, hurried over and wrapped his arms around it. Somehow he managed to lift the life-size figure and escape from the church undetected saving the Holy Eucharist and the statue of the Blessed Virgin. This is the miraculous moment in which St. Hyacinth is most often depicted. But it did not end there.
The wondrous story goes on to say that Hyacinth and the surrounding community while fleeing the invading Tartar forces, came upon the Dneiper River. Hyacinth implored the people to follow him across the river. The river was very deep, and the people were filled with fear. But Hyacinth began to walk across the river and the people, trusting his faith, followed.
Polish historians all seem to agree that this is fact. In addition, it is said that Hyacinth’s footprints remained on the water after he had crossed and that, for centuries after, when the waters were calm, they could again be seen.
There is another legend that was inspired by Hyacinth. It seems there was a violent hailstorm that swept through the area and destroyed all of the crops, leaving the people staring at the possibility of poverty and famine. Hyacinth told them all to pray and they all prayed together. The next morning the crops had regrown and the people made pierogi in gratitude. To this day an old-time Polish saying is used when facing seemingly hopeless circumstances: “Święty Jacku z pierogami!” (St. Hyacinth with pierogi!) pray for us.
Hyacinth fell ill on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8, 1257. He warned of his impending death. On the Feast of the Assumption, he attended morning Mass. He was anointed at the altar and died that very day, August 15, 1257.
He was canonized in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII. His feast day is celebrated on August 17.
St. Hyacinth, please pray for us.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019