April 23, 2017

Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr

Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen

April 24th, is the optional memorial of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622), the 17th century Capuchin priest and martyr who played an important role in the Counter-Reformation, and was brutally murdered by his opponents at Seewis im Prättigau, in present day Switzerland. Fidelis has been called the "protomartyr of the Capuchin Order and of the Propaganda in Rome." He was devoted to Mary.

Fidelis was born in 1577, in Germany. After studying law and philosophy at the University of Freiburg, he went on to earn a degree as a Doctor of the Law. His skill in arguing before the court was evident and soon, he became a renowned lawyer. But feeling that this profession endangered the salvation of his soul, he decided to join the Capuchins and employ his extraordinary gift of eloquence in urging the faithful to lead holy lives and to bring heretics back to the true faith.

An ardent admirer of the founder of his Order (Matteo da Bascio), he was a great friend of poverty. Severe with himself, he was most considerate towards others, "embracing them like a mother does her children." When the Austrian army was stricken by plague, he cared for the spiritual and bodily needs of the soldiers in such a manner that he was honored with the title, "Father of the Fatherland."

His devotion toward the Mother of God was truly remarkable. Trusting in Mary's intercession and that of other saints, he often beseeched God for the grace of sacrificing his life in vindication of the Catholic faith. The occasion came when he was appointed to lead the mission for the conversion of Grisons (in Switzerland); heroically he suffered a martyr's death on April 24, 1622, and sanctified with his blood the first-fruits of martyrdom in the Capuchin Order. Many miracles were associated with his holy relics. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Father Pius Parsch.

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