St. Stephen, Patron Saint of Hungary: A King Devoted to the Assumption of Our Lady

Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, spent much of his life at war against pagan nations and rebellious subjects who did not want to accept the Catholic Faith. 

Newsroom (16/08/2022 11:26 AM, Gaudium Press) Born around the year 975, Stephen was the son of Duke Geza who, along with 5,000 subjects, was baptized by St. Adalbert of Prague.

He became Sovereign of Hungary at the age of 22 when his father died. He had several monasteries erected, and encouraged the monks to pray for the triumph of the Church throughout the nation.

With the support of his brother-in-law, Emperor St. Henry, Stephen asked the Pope to approve his coronation as King. The pontiff gladly granted his request and even gifted him a beautiful crown of gold, topped by a cross.

Thus, at Christmas in the year 1000, Stephen and his wife Gisela were solemnly consecrated and crowned by bishops in the Church of Esztergom, receiving the title of Their Apostolic Majesties, granted by the Pope.

He placed the kingdom under the patronage of Our Lady and had a magnificent church built in Alba Real in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The walls of the choir were decorated with sculptures, the floor with marble, several altar tables of pure gold and  stonework, and a beautifully worked tabernacle.

In 1002, Stephen marched against his uncle, the Duke of Transylvania, (a region in the central-west of present-day Romania) for having attacked Hungary several times, and took him prisoner along with his family, then joined his territories to the Hungarian kingdom. Soon afterwards, he defeated and killed with his sword the Duke of the Bulgarians, who with his army of soldiers, was trying to invade Hungary.

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Laws based on the Ten Commandments

King Stephen determined that only Catholics could belong to the nobility, and he promulgated laws for the government of the nation based on the Ten Commandments.

He founded a monastery in Jerusalem. The fame of his piety meant that most pilgrims from Italy and France, on their way to the Holy City, stopped taking the ordinary route – the sea – and passed through Hungary. St. Stephen received them as if they were his brothers and made generous gifts to them.

To his son Emeric, who became a Saint, he wrote precepts deeply imbued with the spirit of the Church. Here is an example: “Be chaste, to avoid – like the sting of death – every stench of lust!”

St. Emeric, at the age of seven, had taken a vow of virginity. In 1031, when he was only 23 years old, he died suddenly. Exhaling his last breath, he exclaimed: “Great Lady, Queen of Heaven, it is to you that I address my last prayer and entrust the care of my soul. Take under your maternal protection the Magyar Church, my country, and my dear people!”

In the midst of struggles for the expansion of the Church and the defeat of Her enemies, St. Stephen, realizing that his death was approaching, looked up, raised his arms and exclaimed, “Queen of Heaven, Co-redemptrix of the world, to your patronage I entrust the Holy Church with the clergy, and the kingdom with the nobles and the people. Saying my last farewell to them, I entrust my soul into your hands.”

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He had always asked Our Lady that he die on the day of the Solemnity of the Assumption. On 15 August 1038, after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, St. Stephen expired. He was buried in the beautiful Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in Alba Real, which he had had built. He is the Patron Saint of Hungary.

A statesman with a broad vision and a vigorous hand

We summarize below some comments made by Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira about this man of God:

St. Stephen is the great monarch to whose Baptism the conversion of the Hungarian nation, until then pagan, was due. What Clovis was for France, Stephen meant for Hungary, with the immense difference that Clovis converted, but remained very far from being a Saint. Whereas, on the contrary, Stephen was a true Saint. Also, Clovis’ immediate descendants were not saints, but St. Stephen had a canonized son: St. Emeric, his father’s successor on the royal throne.

He was “the statesman with the broadest vision and a vigorous hand, who knew how to initiate and consolidate the assimilation of European civilization by the Magyars, who were still barbaric and pagan. For the success of this work, he had to overcome opposition from his people, famous for their combative and willful spirit which, exacerbated by barbarism, accepted with difficulty the discipline of civilization.”[2]

Let us consider the manly and energetic aspect of St. Stephen. He was beset with unyielding enemies who hated him for not being a pagan, who wanted to depose him because he wished to bring the light of the Gospel to his people, and therefore revolt against him within the kingdom, or march from without into the interior of his dominions to exterminate him and eliminate that portion of the Hungarian nation which had already adhered to the true Faith. These invaders and rebels are enemies of the eternal salvation of the Hungarian people.

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Freedom consists in obeying and serving God

Therefore, St. Stephen saw his people attacked in their highest spiritual goods, because the Faith is the source of all these goods; assaulted also in their own sovereignty, in what is most important about it, because the badge of a nation’s sovereignty is the same thing as the seal of a man’s freedom: it consists in being able, without embarrassment, to obey and serve God. That is the very definition of freedom.

To deny the Hungarian people this freedom was to deny them their sovereignty in the most essential sense. It would mean, moreover, to jeopardize the progress of the Hungarian people, because Catholic Civilization, corresponding as it does entirely to the principles of the natural order and giving man the supernatural powers to obey the principles of that order, is the source of all good and of all temporal greatness.

Thus, to wish to drive the Catholic Faith out of a country is to wish to keep it in abject paganism and to impede its true progress. Therefore, everything that was a reason for Hungary to exist and to live was involved in this struggle of St. Stephen.

Let us pray to St. Stephen, whose memory we celebrate on 16 August, to obtain for us from Our Lady the faith and combativeness in which he shone so outstandingly.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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