By Larry Peterson
Gerard Sagredo was born In Venice sometime near the end of the tenth century. Even though the exact year is not known, the date was confirmed as April 23, the feast day of St George. His father, who was named Gerard, and his mom, Catherine, had waited a long time for the birth of their child. So, in honor of the saint, they had their boy baptized giving him the name George. Several years later, when the boy’s dad died while on a pilgrimage, his mom changed her son’s name to Gerard, in honor of his father and her husband.
Gerard was a teenager when he entered the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. He learned to read, write, and become knowledgeable in the rules of arithmetic. The young man observed the monastic life down to wearing course clothing for self-mortification. He also studied the words of the prophets and scripture.
When the Abbot of the monastery, John Morosini, died in 1012, Gerard was appointed Prior. He was supposed to manage the monastery until a new abbot was appointed. Gerard had a desire to travel to Jerusalem but was willing to wait until a new abbot was named. To his surprise, he was appointed the Abbot to replace Friar Morosini. The year was 1015. After a short time, he asked to be excused from his duties as Abbot and managed to join a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
He planned to follow the example of St. Jerome and live a life of asceticism and penance. But on his way a storm swept his ship off course, and it finally made port in Istria located across the Adriatic Sea close to northern Italy. Here he met a man named Rasina who was the abbot of the nearby St. Martin Monastery. Rasina convinced Gerard to accompany him to Hungary. He told him, “nowhere else in the world could one find today a more suitable place to win souls for the Lord.”
On January 1, 1000, the first King of Hungary was crowned. His name was Stephen I. This was when the deliberate and purposeful establishment of the Catholic Church in Hungary began in a systematic fashion. Rasina took Gerard to meet the Bishop of Pecs. Rasina was hoping for Geared to remain in Hungary and hoped the bishop would help to convince him. When the two clerics heard Gerard preach they were astounded at his eloquence. The bishop told him, “you are master of the word.” They then convinced Gerard to let them introduce him to King Stephen.
King Stephen was pleased with Gerard, so much so that he appointed him his son, Emeric’s, tutor. Gerard was elevated to Bishop, and besides teaching Emeric, he went on to found a monastery, a cathedral, and a seminary for future priests. He converted many Hungarians, and during this time he wrote the Deliberatio supra hymnum trium puerorum (Meditation on the Hymn of the Three Young men). This is the oldest surviving work of Hungarian Theological Literature.
In 1031, Emeric was killed in a hunting accident. King Stephen appointed his nephew, Peter Orseolo, as Emeric’s successor. But when Stephen died in 1038, anarchy took hold, and a vicious fight ensued over whom would get the crown. Peter had claimed the crown but was dethroned by a man named Samuel Aba, in 1041.
Then, in 1044, the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry III, invaded Hungary and removed Aba. Henry restored Peter to power. He was not popular with the people, and another uprising began in 1046. It was known as the Vata pagan uprising, and it was a war on the Christians. On September 24, 1046, the rampaging pagans took aim at clerics and many priests and bishops were slaughtered.
It was during this time that Bishop Gerard Sagredo was martyred. The date was September 24, 1046. There are several reports of what happened, but the most common is that Gerard was taken to Blocksberg Cliff, stoned, pierced with a lance, and then thrown from the cliff into the Danube.
Gerard Sagredo ( Bishop of Csanad) was canonized in 1083 by Pope Gregory VII. Also canonized with him was St. Stephen of Hungary and St. Emeric. St Gerard is one of the patron saints of Hungary and is known as the Apostle of Hungary.
We ask all three of them to pray for us.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019