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Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen


Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

REFLECTION: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Today’s saint accepted this truth and gave his life for these eternal words. Mark Rey was a lawyer in northern Germany in the early 1600’s during the reformation of the church. At this time, many people broke away from the church promoting various ideals and Christian practices. It was common for someone to lose their life for disagreeing with those who left the church or those who stayed with the church. Even heretics were killing heretics. Mark was greatly disappointed with his career in practicing law during this unrest, so he became a Capuchin monk and then a priest, changing his name to Father Fidelis, which means Faithful.

He took many leadership roles as a Capuchin priest and was sent to write, preach and teach in what is now Switzerland. There he had great success in converting many to Catholicism, until he met his fate as a martyr. One day after preaching, some Calvinist demanded he renounce his preaching. Fr. Fidelis replied, “I was sent to rebuke you, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages, I do not fear death.” They in turn, responded to Fr. Fidelis by killing him with the butt of a sword, cracking open his skull and stabbing him. Once he died, they cut off his left leg out of retribution for spreading Catholicism during his many trips in Protestant territory. He was forty-five years old and had only been a priest for ten years. Over three hundred miracles were attributed to St. Fidelis’ intercession during his canonization process.

Just like the opposition in doctrine of faith and its practices during the reformation, the Gospel reflects the opposing opinions of the disciples. Jesus had just told them to eat his flesh, using a word that meant “chew”. Some followers could not understand how Jesus’ words are “Spirit and life” and how “the flesh is of no avail”. And those, like Peter, chose to accept Jesus’ teaching as eternal words. They had a faith believing in the holiness of His words. They had confidence, even though they did not understand how God would feed us the bread of life in the Eucharist.

Let us accept Jesus into our hearts each time we receive Him in the host at mass. Not only did our Lord give up his life for us, but God sends us martyrs and saints to imitate and help us remain faithful. May St. Fidelis pray for those who preach the truth and stand firm in their faith, even though it may be hard.


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