“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned captain”
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was born with the name Mark Rey in what is today Germany. He studied and taught law and became known for his charity, austerities, and great devotion to God. He gained a reputation for being “the poor man’s lawyer” because of his concern for the helpless. He eventually left his profession to become a Capuchin Franciscan friar and priest, taking the religious name “Fidelis,” meaning “faithful.” His work as a friar was fraught with danger. He lived during the Counter-Reformation, a time of great religious, cultural, and political upheaval in Western Europe. He zealously defended the teaching of the Catholic Church against the Protestant heretics. He wrote many pamphlets against Calvinism and Zwinglianism, and even travelled to Switzerland to preach against the Calvinists both in the pulpits and the public square. His untiring efforts to bring souls back to the Church was so successful that he became a threat to the heretic preachers. One day his preaching provoked a mob that confronted him and demanded he renounce his Catholic faith upon pain of death. He replied, “I came to extirpate heresy, not to embrace it,” after which he was bludgeoned to death.
So St. Fidelis, German Cappuchin Franciscan preacher and martyr, died at the hands of fanatic Calvinists for his faithful witness to the Catholic truth. In contrast to their false doctrine on “predestination”, he preached with great success and fruits of conversion, that though God knows everything that we will do and what will be the eternal consequences (and therefore whether or not we will choose eternal life in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ), He does not predetermine any of our actions, but always conserves in us the freedom to choose.
Many miracles led to the canonisation of St. Fidelis in the following century. His feast day is 24th April.
Podcast homily by Fr. Maximilian Warnisher (FI) for the feast of St. Fidelis: