Tag Archives: Christians

He was born in Venice and became the Apostle of Hungary: Meet St. Gerard Sagredo; Bishop and Martyr

Apostle of Hungary; St. Gerard Sagredo                              en.wikipedia.org

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

My Life for Your Freedom—The Mercedarians Practice What They Preach: One of Them is St. Serapion of Algiers

St. Serapion of Algiers—en.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Several years ago a newly ordained Mercedarian priest was assigned to our parish. Father Scott Brentwood was 31 years old and showed up wearing the traditional habit of his order. The habit was all white and, as Father walked toward his new parish, watching him approach was like taking a peek into the middle ages. It was an awesome sight to behold!

Father Scott has since moved on, and we had another newly ordained Mercedarian replace him, Father Daniel Bowen. Before continuing, I will just say this; as a cradle Catholic who grew up in the 50s and 60s if these two priests are representative of the future of our Church, that future is as brilliant as an ascending morning sun.

The Mercedarians were founded by St. Peter Nolasco in the year 1218. Moved by direct inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, his purpose in founding the new order was to free or redeem Christian captives from Muslim captors. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Mercedarians take a fourth vow; they promise to  give themselves up for someone in danger of losing their faith, up to and including sacrificing their own lives. One of these courageous priests was St. Serapion of Algiers.

Serapion was born in 1179 in either England or Ireland. When he was a boy, his father took him along on the Crusades led by King Richard the Lion-Heart. When he was 12 years old, he participated in the Battle of Acre in 1191.   Then he met Peter Nolasco, who preached the mercy of God and did so by freeing Christian slaves from their Moorish captors. Serapion realized that his life was meant to save lives, not to take them.

In 1222, Serapion became a full member of the Mercedarian order. He made several missions of mercy in northern Africa before being sent to England to recruit new members. During the journey, his ship was attacked by pirates, and he was left for dead. However, he survived and eventually made it to England. He began preaching against the theft of church property and was ordered to leave the country.

In 1240, Serapion had gone to Algiers to secure the release of 87 Christian captives. The ransom he had brought with him suddenly was not enough. The captors demanded more than Serapion had. When some of the prisoners heard this, they began to consider rejecting their Christian faith to save themselves. Serapion would not allow this to happen. He offered himself to the Moors in exchange for the prisoner’s freedom. This was agreed upon, and Serapion watched as the prisoners were freed. He then knew it was time for him to begin preaching the love of God to his new captors.

Serapion had turned his very life over to his captors. Undaunted by his natural fear he preached the love of God and the gospel message to the Muslims. Many began to respond to his message. However, as his brother Mercedarians hurried throughout Europe in the hope of gathering the extra ransom demanded, Serapion, was making some hard-hearted enemies. The Muslim leaders who realized this Catholic/Christian man was starting to convert his listeners, turned against him.

Since the ransom had yet to arrive Serapion was ordered put to death. The man who simply wanted to preach the message of the God of Love was crucified on an X shaped cross. While still alive he was dismembered. The pain he endured must have been beyond description. Serapion died the proto-martyr of Algiers. Like his brother Mercedarians, St. Raymond Nonnatus and St. Peter Armengol, Serapion gave all he had, including his life, for the love of God.

Serapion was beatified in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII and canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1728.  We ask St. Serapion of Algiers and all his brother Mercedarian saints, to pray for us all.

Today, the Mercedarians aka Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, are a worldwide organization and they still are rescuing people from attacks on their faith. They are located in 17 countries, and their student house is in Philadelphia. They can be found working in deprived neighborhoods, in hospitals among drug addicts and with families through parish work. The Mercedarians are a shining example to all Catholic/Christians the world over.

This link  Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy aka Mercedarians will direct you to the Mercedarian website. Please take a look.

St. Serapion of Algiers, please pray for us ALL.