Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy

Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen (†1622; Feast – April 24)

St. Fidelis as Pictured on a Liechtenstein Postage StampSaint Fidelis was born in Sigmaringen, Germany, in 1577 of noble parents, Johann and Genovefa Rey, and given the name Marcus. In his youth he frequently received the Sacraments, visited the sick and the poor, and spent, moreover, many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He performed his studies in the University of Fribourg, pursuing a law degree while teaching philosophy. After this he entered the legal practice in the quality of counselor or advocate, at Colmar, in Alsace, with great reputation but even greater virtue. Justice and religion directed all his actions. He scrupulously forbade all invectives, detractions, and whatever might affect the reputation of an adversary. His charity procured him the surname of advocate for the poor: but the injustices of a colleague in protracting lawsuits for gain, and his finding fault with our saint for expediting them, gave Marcus a disgust of a profession which was to many an occasion of sin.

Marcus Rey determined himself to enter among the Capuchin friars. First he received Holy Orders, and having said his first Mass in the Convent at Fribourg, on the Feast of St. Francis in 1612, he consecrated himself to God and received the habit. The Father Guardian gave him the religious name of Fidelis, or Faithful, alluding to that text of the Apocalypse which promises a crown of life to him who shall continue faithful to the end. From that moment humiliations, disciplines and unreserved obedience were his delight. He donated his inheritance to the Bishop's seminary, for the establishment of a fund for the support of poor students, to whom he also left his library; the remainder of his substance he gave to the poor. In regard to dress and furnishings, he always chose for his use that which was least valuable and convenient. He fasted during Advent, Lent and Vigils on bread, water and dried fruit. His life was a continual prayer, and at devotions he seemed rather like an angel than a man. His earnest and perpetual petition to God was that he would always be preserved from sin, and from falling into tepidity or sloth in His service. He sought the most abject and painful employments even when superior; knowing that God exalts those highest who have humbled themselves the lowest.

No sooner had he finished his course in theology than he was employed in preaching and in hearing confessions; and being sent to be superior at the Convent of Feldkirch, Austria, that town and many neighboring places were totally reformed by his zealous labors, and several Calvinists converted. The newly formed Vatican Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith commissioned Fr. Fidelis to preach among the Grisons (northeastern Switzerland); and he was the first missionary that was sent into those parts after that people had embraced Calvinism. The Protestants were incensed and loudly threatened his life; so from the very beginning the saint prepared himself for martyrdom. Every day he gained new conquests for Christ; but these conversions ought to be regarded as more the fruit of his ardent prayers in which he passed a great part of the night, than of his sermons in the day. The Bishop of Chur sent a full and large account of his wonderful success to the Vatican. The Calvinists of that province, who had lately rebelled against the Emperor, were determined to bear with the holy missionary no longer. Our Saint was notified of their intent, but thought of nothing but preparing himself for his conflict, passing whole nights in fervent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

On the 24th of April, 1622, he made his confession to a companion with great compunction, offered Mass, and then preached at Grüsch, foretelling his death. From there he went to Seewis, where he exhorted the Catholics to constancy in the Faith. A Calvinist fired his musket at him in the Church, but missed. The Saint refused to heed the entreaties to save himself, and calmly began the return journey to Grüsch. On the road he met with 20 Calvinist soldiers with a minister at their head. They called him a false prophet and urged him to embrace their sect. He answered: "I am sent to you to confute, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic Religion is the Faith of all ages. I fear not death." One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on his head with a backsword. The martyr rose again on his knees, and stretching out his arms in the form of a Cross, said with a feeble voice: "Pardon my enemies, O Lord! Blinded by passion, they know not what they do. Lord Jesus, have pity on me. Mary, Mother of Jesus, assist me." Another stroke clove his skull, and he fell to the ground in a pool of blood. The soldiers, not content with this, added many stabs to his body, and hacked his left leg, as they said, to punish him for his many journeys into those parts to preach to them. He died in his 45th year, the 10th of his religious profession. The rebels were soon after defeated by the Imperial forces, an event which the martyr had foretold them. The minister was converted by this circumstance, and made a public abjuration of his heresy. After six months, the martyr's body was found incorrupt, but the head and left arm were separated from the trunk. His major relics are now in the Cathedral of Chur, in the Capuchin Convents of Appenzell, Feldkirch and Stuttgart, and in the parish Church of Sigmaringen.

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