PMPC IV

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen

A former lawyer who left his profession to become a Capuchin Franciscan priest, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen has his liturgical memorial on April 24.

Fidelis' life bridged the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a time of religious conflict in Western Europe. He died at the hands of a mob while preaching in Switzerland, where he had gone to combat the Calvinist heresy.

The future “Fidelis” received the name of Mark Rey at the time of his birth, during 1577 in present-day Germany. Mark studied at the University of Freiburg, and worked for a time as a private tutor. Eventually he went back to the university and earned his law degree around 1611.

Though he had already shown signs of devotion to God and studied canon law alongside civil law, Mark opted for a secular career as an attorney. Within a year he was known as “the poor man’s lawyer” because of his concern for the needy. Just as quickly, he became disgusted with the corrupt ways of his chosen field .

Leaving his legal practice behind, Mark decided to give his life directly to the service of Christ and the Church. In short order he received ordination as a priest, and joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Freiburg.

With his entry into the order he received the name “Fidelis,” meaning “faithful” -- after the words of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation, “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” As he embraced radical poverty and simplicity, the attorney-turned-Franciscan left his inheritance to a scholarship fund for poor seminarians, who also received his books.

Fidelis showed his love for God through prayer and fasting, while caring for his neighbors through preaching, writing, and the celebration of the sacraments. He showed particular care for the poor and sick, and was especially revered for his work among Austrian soldiers who were suffering from a plague epidemic.

During 1614 a Swiss Catholic bishop had sought help from the Capuchins, to restore the faith and counteract the spread of Calvinist Protestantism. In 1621, Fidelis was sent on the mission. He brought just four items: a Bible, a prayer book, a crucifix and a copy of the Capuchin rule.

The winter of 1621-22 was a busy period of preaching, instruction and theological disputation for the Franciscan priest. He preached not only in the pulpits of Catholic churches, but also in public places, and even in the meeting-places of the Calvinists themselves. Some Swiss Protestants responded with hostility, but many others were also brought back to the Church.

Like many cases of religious persecution during this time, Fidelis’ treatment at the hands of the Calvinists did not stem exclusively from doctrinal disagreement. National and cultural tensions also contributed, with many Swiss Protestants suspecting that the Catholic mission was part of an Austrian plot against their nation.

This volatile situation boiled over on April 24, 1622, when Fidelis’ preaching provoked a riot at a church in the village of Seewis. Some Austrian soldiers were killed in the uproar, and a would-be assassin shot at the priest.

After declining an offer of help from a Protestant, Fidelis was confronted outside the church by a mob, and told to choose between his Catholic beliefs and his life. Fidelis was defiant: “The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages. I fear not death.”

St. Fidelis was beaten and stabbed to death. The sight of his martyrdom, however, is said to have converted one of the Protestant preachers who led the mob. A succession of attested miracles led to his canonization in 1746.


Acts 11:19-26

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.


John. 10:22-30

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[a] at Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.
24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me,
26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[b]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one.”


Ps. 87(86):1-3,4-5,6-7

1 His foundation upon the holy mountains the LORD loves:
2 The gates of Zion, more than any dwelling of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, O city of God!
3 I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those who know the LORD; Of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia:
4 "This man was born there."
5 And of Zion they shall say: "One and all were born in her; And he who has established her is the Most High LORD."
6 They shall note, when the peoples are enrolled: "This man was born there."
7 And all shall sing, in their festive dance: "My home is within you."


Lord, help me to always hear Your voice

Tue 24th April 2018 4th Week of Easter 
Acts 11:19-26 Ps. 87(86):1-3,4-5,6-7
Jn. 10:22-30   (Ps Wk IV)


It is probably not a good thing for the Christian church to be too comfortable, prosperous, or accepted by society. The early Christians discovered that it was during their times of persecutions that they seemed to flourish as a community. Even though there was a severe famine and persecution at the hands of Herod, the Christians focused on helping their brothers and sisters in need and sharing what they had. It was because of this sort of life that they were first called ‘Christians’. When things do not go well for us, it is not the time for defensiveness, fear or flight. It is a call to remember who we are and to be that beacon of hope and compassion we are meant to be.

The crowd wanted a sign or confirmation from Jesus that he was indeed the Messiah. But he refused to give one. He insisted that those who belonged to him — those with hearts and minds open to God — would instinctively recognize who he was and respond with faith. In our world there are many voices that claim to have the truth. If we listen with the heart and soul we can have an inner sense of the correct path.

We can recognize the presence of Jesus wherever it might be. Jesus is one in mind, heart, and will with the Father. He invites us to be one with him so that we too can experience that same relationship. 

Lord, help me to always hear Your voice.