Wenceslaus was born in Bohemia in 907. His father was killed in battle when Wenceslaus was young. This left the kingdom of Bohemia in the hands of his pagan mother, who favored the anti-Christian factions. Ludmilla, Wenceslaus’s grandmother, took over his education. Ludmilla was determined that Wenceslaus would do two things: be a Christian and rule his country instead of letting his mother take over. Nobles of pagan heritage killed Ludmilla, yet she had done her work well. Wenceslaus became the ruler—a well-educated, Christian one.
Wenceslaus first made peace with his mother so that he could govern. He worked with the Church, ended the persecution of the Christians, brought back exiled priests, and built churches. Wenceslaus set an example all could follow. He gave alms, was just to those who were rich and those who were poor, visited prisoners, and promoted the religious and educational improvement of his people. To do this, Wenceslaus had to make peace with the king of the German empire at the expense of Bohemian nationalism. This caused opposition. Nobles grew angry because they were ruled by a Christian king.
Boleslaus, the brother of Wenceslaus, was jealous that he was king. Boleslaus invited Wenceslaus to a banquet. The next morning as Wenceslaus was on his way to Mass, Boleslaus hit him. As they struggled, the friends of Boleslaus ran up and killed King Wenceslaus at the chapel door. Before he died, Wenceslaus asked God’s mercy for his brother. Immediately, Wenceslaus was recognized as a martyr. He was proclaimed patron of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic. His picture was engraved on coins, and the crown of Wenceslaus was regarded as a symbol of Czech nationalism and independence. His life shines as a brilliant example of love of country and neighbor.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Wenzeslaus by Peter Parler, 14th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.