26 September 2022

St Gerard, OCarm, Bishop & Martyr

St Gerard, sometimes surnamed Sagredo, the apostle of a large district in Hungary, was a Venetian, born about the beginning of the eleventh century. At an early age he consecrated himself to the service of God and after some time he left for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While passing through Hungary he became known to the king, St Stephen, who made him tutor to his son, Bd Emeric, and Gerard began as well to preach with success. When St Stephen established the episcopal see of Csanad he appointed Gerard to be its first bishop. The greater part of the people were heathen, and those that bore the name of Christian were ignorant, brutish and savage, but St Gerard laboured among them with much fruit. He always so far as possible joined to the perfection of the episcopal state that of the contemplative life, which gave him fresh vigour in the discharge of his pastoral duties. But Gerard was also a scholar, and wrote an unfinished dissertation on the Hymn of the Three Young Men (Daniel iii), as well as other works which are lost. King Stephen seconded the zeal of the good bishop so long as he lived, but on his death in 1038 the realm was plunged into anarchy by competing claimants to the crown, and a revolt against Christianity began. Things went from bad to worse, and eventually, when celebrating Mass at a little place on the Danube called Giod, Gerard had prevision that he would on that day receive the crown of martyrdom. His party arrived at Buda and were going to cross the river, when they were set upon by some soldiers under the command of an obstinate upholder of idolatry and enemy of the memory of King St Stephen. They attacked St Gerard with a shower of stones, overturned his conveyance, and dragged him to the ground. Whilst in their hands the saint raised himself on his knees and prayed with St Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. They know not what they do." He had scarcely spoken these words when he was run through the body with a lance; the insurgents then hauled him to the edge of the cliff called the Blocksberg, on which they were, and dashed his body headlong into the Danube below. It was September 24, 1046. The heroic death of St Gerard had a profound effect, he was revered as a martyr, and his relics were enshrined in 1083 at the same time as those of St Stephen and his pupil Bd Emeric. In 1333 the republic of Venice obtained the greater part of his relics from the king of Hungary, and with great solemnity translated them to the church of our Lady of Murano, wherein St Gerard is venerated as the protomartyr of Venice, the place of his birth.

St Gerard was an Italian bishop from Venice (some claim Basque origins) who operated in the Kingdom of Hungary (specifically in Budapest), and educated Saint Emeric of Hungary, the son of Saint Stephen of Hungary). He played a major role in converting Hungary to Christianity. He was the bishop of Csanád.

St Gerard's martyrdom took place on 24 September 1046 (his co-martyrs were Bystrik and Buldus) on a hill in Budapest which is now named after him. Allegedly he was placed on a 2-wheel cart, hauled to the hilltop and rolled down the now named Gerard Hill, then as still being alive at the bottom, beaten to death. Other unverified tales report him as being put in a spiked barrel for rolling down.

Canonized in 1083, along with St. Stephen and St. Emeric, St Gerard is currently one of the patron saints of Hungary.

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