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St. Stephen of Hungary’s greatest treasure was his Catholic faith

Stephen of Hungary

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Philip Kosloski - published on 09/02/21 - updated on 08/10/23

St. John Paul II urged the Hungarian people to keep alive the faith that King St. Stephen established in their country.

St. Stephen was the first King of Hungary in the year 1000, and his kingdom endured until the 20th century. Yet, St. John Paul II believed his most enduring treasure was his Catholic faith.

In his first apostolic visit to Hungary in 1991, John Paul II explained how St. Stephen’s letter to his son was also addressed to all Hungarians.

Saint Stephen was aware of passing on this inheritance to future generations. Every year on his feast day we reread the will he left to his son. The words of the liturgy today contain a striking resemblance to this text: “Listen, my son, and accept my words. . . I show you the way of wisdom; I guide you along the paths of righteousness” (Proverbs 4:10-11).

So says the inspired author of the Book, and in a similar way St. Stephen spoke to his son Emeryk. 

But is it only to him that he was addressing himself? Did he not write his warnings for all future generations of Hungarians, for all the heirs of his crown?

John Paul II believed that his greatest treasure was his Catholic faith, and not any crown that was passed on to succeeding generations.

Your holy king, dear sons and daughters of the Hungarian nation, left you not only the royal crown, received from Pope Sylvester II, as an inheritance. He left you the spiritual testament, a legacy of fundamental and indestructible values: the real house built on rock.

This building founded on the rock is not only a doctrine or a set of laws and advice or a human institution: it is above all a solid testimony of Christian life.

St. Stephen strove to put his Catholic faith into practice, and it is his radiant life of Christ-like charity that should remain an inspiration to all Hungarians.

St. John Paul II ended his homily with a final appeal to the Hungarian people, that they may look to their saints for inspiration.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the footsteps of Saint Stephen and Saint Elizabeth, know how to see Christ in every poor person and help him as much as possible. Do not forget: the poor are the treasure of the Church, they are the hidden presence of Christ himself among you! 

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