In many cases grandparents can be very influential in the upbringing of children. This was the case with the saint we celebrate today, Wenceslaus.
His grandmother was St Ludmila, who gave him a good grounding in Latin and Slavonic. When his father was killed in battle in 921, Wenceslaus was only 14 years old. His mother belonged to an anti Christian faction and appointed herself regent. Ludmila tried to persuade her grandson to power for the sake of the survival of Christianity. Unhappy with influence her mother-in-law exerted over her son, Wenceslaus’s mother had Ludmila murdered. When Wenceslaus come of age in 922 he sent his mother into exile.
Wenceslaus was a strong ruler, he improved education and built up Christianity through the rule of law. His younger brother, Boleslas, became the focus of opposition. Boleslas and a group of nobles attacked and killed Wenceslaus on his way to Matins. Wenceslaus’s last word were : “Brother, may God forgive you.”
Why is Wenceslaus a saint? He maintained a consistently upright and Christian stance. “He was venerated as a martyr, even though his death cannot be directly attributed to this defence of the faith.” He was hailed as patron of the Bohemian people from the eleventh century, and then of Czechoslovakia when this was formed of the provinces Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia after the First World War.
Most of us know of this saint from the carol written by a distinguished nineteenth century hymn writer, J.M. Neale. The incident narrated in this carol does not relate to any known incident in his life. Today people seem very reluctant to champion Christianity in the public space. They don’t want to offend or upset.
Yet the truth of Christ and the Good News remains essential and life giving – something we need to celebrate and promote.