Saint Fidelis is the Patron Saint of lawyers and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
By Larry Peterson
During the early part of the 16th century, the zealousness of the Protestants in Zurich, Switzerland, was quite pronounced. On January 5, 1527, a young fellow by the name of Felix Mantz, discovered just how zealous these people were. And he was one of them, save one idea.
Felix held the opinion that only adults should be baptized. He suggested that it was wrong to baptize children. The Protestants of Zurich, while rejecting almost all Catholic beliefs, did believe in infant baptism. Felix was accused of “heresy” and seized by the local authorities. They tied Felix’s hands and feet to a pole and placed him in a boat. As people cheered, he was rowed out to the middle of the river, and thrown overboard. He was drowned for his belief.
The Protestant Reformation had begun, and Felix was the first Protestant killed by other Protestants for heresy. Heretics killing other heretics for not agreeing with each other point up some of the madness that existed during the 16th and 17th centuries. Fifty years after Felix was murdered, things had not changed. No dissenting was tolerated, and, if you were Catholic, you had better be careful. Fidelis Sigmaringen walked right into the middle of what became known as the Protestant Reformation.
He was born as Mark Roy in 1577, in the town of Sigmaringen in Prussia, in Northern Germany. His dad’s name was John Roy, and he raised his son in the Catholic faith. Mark was exceptionally bright and attended the University of Freiburg, where he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1603, followed by degrees in civil and canon law.
In 1604, Mark acting as a mentor to three young men from Swabia (a northern part of Germany) began traveling through the principal places of Europe. During this time, he attended Mass as frequently as possible and would make it a point to visit hospitals and orphanages. He would if necessary, actually give the needy the clothes off his back. He would also make it a point to spend several hours a day in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
When Mark returned home, he began to practice law as a counselor or advocate becoming known as the “poor man’s lawyer.” But he quickly became disillusioned with it. He hated having to tear people down with the use of invectives and such other types of distractions. A devout Catholic, he left his law practice and decided to join his brother, George, in the Capuchin Order.
When mark entered the Capuchin Order and took the name Fidelis (Latin for Faithful). It referred to the Book of Revelation, which promises a crown of life to him who shall continue faithful to the end. He finished his novitiate and studies for the priesthood and was ordained on October 4, 1612. He celebrated his First Mass at the Capuchin Friary in Fribourg. It was also the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi., Father Fidelis was intelligent, highly disciplined, and lived as ascetically as he could. Fully committed to his priesthood, he quickly rose to positions of leadership within the Order.
He was appointed by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome to preach, teach, and write in present-day Switzerland. His goal was to encourage people to come back home to the Church of their birth. It would be no easy task. The majority of people in Switzerland were hard-core Calvinists. Father Fidelis quickly became their official enemy.
On e day, when father Fidelis was traveling between two towns where he was preaching and saying Mass, he was stopped by Calvinist soldiers who were led by a minister. The priest had recently caused an uproar in a town nearby and had barely escaped with his life. The soldiers knew who stood before them. The demanded the Father Fidelis abandon his faith. Father said, “I was sent to rebuke you, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages. I do not fear death.”
Father Fidelis was then hit in the head with the butt of a sword. His skull cracked wide open. The soldiers then began stabbing him all over his body. He died quickly. They finished their vicious attack by hacking off his left leg in retribution for all the many journeys he had made into Protestant territory. The date was April 24, 1622. Father Fidelis was forty-five years old.
Fidelis of Sigmaringen was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIV on June 29,1746. His feast day is April 24.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2020