If saints have been falsely characterized as "other worldly," the life of Wenceslaus stands as an example to the contrary: He stood for Christian values in the midst of the political intrigues which characterized 10th-century Bohemia.
He was born in 907 near Prague, son of the Duke of Bohemia. His saintly grandmother, Ludmilla, raised him and sought to promote him as ruler of Bohemia in place of his mother, who favored the anti-Christian factions. Ludmilla was eventually murdered, but rival Christian forces enabled Wenceslaus to assume leadership of the government.
His rule was marked by efforts toward unification within Bohemia, support of the Church and peace-making negotiations with Germany, a policy which caused him trouble with the anti-Christian opposition. His brother Boleslav joined in the plotting, and in September of 929 invited Wenceslaus to Alt Bunglou for the celebration of the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian (September 26). On the way to Mass, Boleslav attacked his brother, and in the struggle, Wenceslaus was killed by supporters of Boleslav.
Although his death resulted primarily from political upheaval, Wenceslaus was hailed as a martyr for the faith, and his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. He is hailed as the patron of the Bohemian people and of former Czechoslovakia.
"Good King Wenceslaus" was able to incarnate his Christianity in a world filled with political unrest. While we are often victims of violence of a different sort, we can easily identify with his struggle to bring harmony to society. The call to become involved in social change and in political activity is addressed to Christians; the values of the gospel are sorely needed today.
"While recognizing the autonomy of the reality of politics, Christians who are invited to take up political activity should try to make their choices consistent with the gospel and, in the framework of a legitimate plurality, to give both personal and collective witness to the seriousness of their faith by effective and disinterested service of men" (Pope Paul VI, A Call to Action, 46).
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