Fidelis of Sigmaringen, P & M

+John 10:22-30

The Father and I are one

It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied:

‘I have told you, but you do not believe.

The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;

but you do not believe,

because you are no sheep of mine.

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;

I know them and they follow me.

I give them eternal life;

they will never be lost

and no one will ever steal them from me.

The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,

and no one can steal from the Father.

The Father and I are one.’

The New American Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

JESUS AND THE TEMPLE

583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth. At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business. He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover. His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.

584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce. He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.'” After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple.

585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain “one stone upon another”. By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover. But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest’s house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.

586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church. He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men. Therefore his being put to bodily death presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”

JESUS AND ISRAEL’S FAITH IN THE ONE GOD AND SAVIOR

587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel’s religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.

588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves. Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.

589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God’s own attitude toward them. He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet. But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God’s equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God’s name.

590 Only the divine identity of Jesus’ person can justify so absolute a claim as “He who is not with me is against me”; and his saying that there was in him “something greater than Jonah,. . . greater than Solomon”, something “greater than the Temple”; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord, and his affirmations, “Before Abraham was, I AM”, and even “I and the Father are one.”

591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.373 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace. Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer. The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.


Psalm 86

A prayer of David. Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed.

Preserve my life, for I am loyal; save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; pity me, Lord; to you I call all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant; to you, Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.

LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help.

In this time of trouble I call, for you will answer me.

None among the gods can equal you, O Lord; nor can their deeds compare to yours.

All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name.

For you are great and do wondrous deeds; and you alone are God.

Teach me, LORD, your way that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name.

I will praise you with all my heart, glorify your name forever, Lord my God.

Your love for me is great; you have rescued me from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the arrogant have risen against me; a ruthless band has sought my life; to you they pay no heed.

But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true.

Turn to me, have pity on me; give your strength to your servant; save this child of your handmaid.

Give me a sign of your favor: make my enemies see, to their confusion, that you, LORD, help and comfort me.

Source: The New American Bible


Fidelis of Sigmaringen, O.F.M. Cap. (1577 – 1622) was a Capuchin friar who was a major figure in the Counter-Reformation, and was murdered by his opponents at Seewis im Prättigau, now part of Switzerland. Fidelis was canonized in 1746.

He was born Mark Roy or Rey in 1577, in Sigmaringen, a town in modern-day Germany, then under the Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. His father’s name was John Rey. He studied law and philosophy at the University of Freiburg.

Roy subsequently taught philosophy at this university, ultimately earning the degree of Doctor of Law. During his time as a student he did not drink wine, and wore a hair-shirt. He was known for his modesty, meekness and chastity.

In 1604, Roy accompanied, as preceptor (teacher-mentor), three young Swabian gentlemen on their travels through the principal parts of Europe. During six years of travel, he attended Mass very frequently. In every town they came to, he visited the hospitals and churches, passed several hours on his knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and was generous to the poor, sometimes giving them the very clothes off his back.

Upon his return, he practiced law as a counselor or advocate, at Colmar, in Alsace, France where he came to be known as the ‘poor man’s lawyer’. He scrupulously forbore all invectives, detractions, and whatever might affect the reputation of any adversary. Disenchanted with the evils associated with his profession, he was determined to enter the religious life as a member of the Capuchin friars.

Life as a friar

Upon entering the Capuchin order, the guardian gave him the religious name of Fidelis, the Latin word for “faithful,” alluding to that text from the Book of Revelation which promises a crown of life to him who shall continue faithful to the end. He finished his novitiate and studies for the priesthood, presiding over his first Mass at the Capuchin friary in Fribourg (in present-day Switzerland), on October 4, 1612 (the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the order).

As soon as Fidelis finished his course of theology, he was immediately employed in preaching and in hearing confessions. After becoming guardian of the Capuchin friary in Weltkirchen, Feldkirch (in present-day Austria), many residents of the town and neighboring places were reformed by his zealous labors, and several Calvinists were converted. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith commissioned Fidelis to preach in the Graubünden region of eastern Switzerland. Eight other Capuchin friars were to be his assistants, and they labored in this mission under his direction.

The Calvinists of that territory, being incensed at his success in converting their brethren, loudly threatened Fidelis’ life, and he prepared himself for martyrdom. Ralph de Salis and another Calvinist gentleman were both converted by his missionary efforts. Fidelis and his companions entered into Prättigau, a small district of Graubünden, in 1622, on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. The effects of his ardent zeal, where the Bishop of Coire sent a lengthy and full account to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, enraged the Calvinists in that province.

On April 24, 1622, Fidelis made his confession, celebrated Mass and then preached at Grüsch. At the end of his sermon, which he had delivered with more than ordinary zeal, he stood silent all of a sudden, with his eyes fixed upon Heaven, in ecstasy. He foretold his death to several persons in the clearest terms, and began signing his letters, “P. Fidelis, prope diem esca vermium” (“Father Fidelis, in days ahead to become food for worms”). After the service at Grüsch he and several companions traveled to Seewis. His companions noted that he was particularly cheerful.

Death

On April 24, in a campaign organized by the Habsburgs, Fidelis was preaching under protection of some Austrian imperial soldiers in the Church at Seewis with the aim to reconvert the people of Seewis to Catholicism. During the sermon, his listeners were called “to arms” by the Calvinist agitators outside. Some of the people went to face the Austrian troops outside the church. Fidelis had been persuaded by the remaining Catholics to immediately flee with the Austrian troops out of Seewis, which he did, but then returned alone to Grüsch. On his way back he was confronted by 20 Calvinist soldiers who demanded unsuccessfully that he renounce the Catholic faith, and when he refused, they subsequently murdered him.

A local account:

From Grüsch he went to preach at Seewis, where, with great energy, he exhorted the Catholics to constancy in the faith. After a Calvinist had discharged his musket at him in the Church, the Catholics entreated him to leave the place. He answered that death was his gain and his joy, and that he was ready to lay down his life in God’s cause. On his road back to Grüsch, he met twenty Calvinist soldiers with a minister at their head. They called him a false prophet, and urged him to embrace their sect. He answered: “I am sent to you to confute, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages, I fear not death.” One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on the head with his backsword. Fidelis rose again on his knees, and stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, said with a feeble voice “Pardon my enemies, O Lord: blinded by passion they know not what they do. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Mary, Mother of God, succor me!.” Another sword stroke clove his skull, and he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. The soldiers, not content with this, added many stab wounds to his body with their long knives, and hacked-off his left leg, as they said, to punish him for his many journeys into those parts to preach to them.

Veneration

It is said that a Catholic woman lay concealed near the place of Fidelis’ martyrdom as the saint was slain. After the soldiers had left, she came out to assess the incident and found the martyr’s eyes open, fixed on the heavens. He was buried by Catholics the next day.

The rebels were soon after defeated by the imperial troops, an event which the martyr had foretold them. The Protestant minister who had participated in Fidelis’ martyrdom, was converted by this circumstance, made a public abjuration of Calvinism and was received into the Catholic Church.

After six months, the martyr’s body was found to be incorrupt, but his head and left arm were separated from his body. The body parts were then placed into two reliquaries, one sent to the Cathedral of Coire, at the behest of the bishop, and laid under the High Altar; the other was placed in the Capuchin church at Weltkirchen, Feldkirch, Austria.

Saint Fidelis’ feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is celebrated on April 24.

Source: Wikipedia