.- On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the national feast day of St. Wenceslas, the patron of the Czech Republic. Contrasting the example of “good King Wenceslas” with the sad history of the the last century, the Pope said that holiness is the only solution to mankind's longing for fulfillment and happiness.
September 28 is the day on which Czechs travel from all parts of the country to the church of St. Wenceslas at Stara Boleslav to celebrate the life and martyrdom of their nation's patron saint.
Wenceslas was born around the year 907 and ascended the throne in 925. According to tradition he was a highly cultured and religious king, a man of justice and a benefactor to the poor. He was killed for political reasons by his brother Boleslav in 935 and in 938 his remains were translated to Prague cathedral. Ever since the tenth century he has been venerated as a saint.
Pope Benedict arrived at the church on Monday morning and was greeted by the religious and civil authorities.
The Pontiff first paused in adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and then descended into the crypt of the Mausoleum of the Czech Nation where the relics of the saint are exposed.
After venerating the relics of St. Wenceslas, the Holy Father greeted a group of twenty elderly priests and then took the popemobile to an open space where he celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas.
In his homily Benedict XVI pointed out that St. Wenceslas "is a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples. Yet we ask ourselves: in our day, is holiness still relevant? ... Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory? Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?”
The Pope then turned to the history of the past century, especially in eastern Europe.
“The last century - as this land of yours can bear witness - saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights.
"Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are,” the Pope observed.
The solution to this sadness and lack of fulfillment can be found by those “who maintain in their hearts a holy 'fear of God.'”
“Today,” the Holy Father stated, “there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God's will at every moment."
Monday's Gospel reading also echoed the same theme, the Pope said, quoting, 'What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?'
“The true value of human life is measured not merely in terms of material goods and transient interests, because it is not material goods that quench the profound thirst for meaning and happiness in the heart of every person. This is why Jesus does not hesitate to propose to His disciples the 'narrow' path of holiness," he taught.
"The testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible" to follow this path, the Holy Father added.
"Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so."
"This is the lesson we can learn from St. Wenceslas, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power," the Holy Father concluded.