Spirituality for Today – March 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 8

Saint of the Month

St. Jan Sarkander – March 17

An illustration of Saint Jan SarkanderSt. Jan Sarkander

Jan Sarkander was born on December 20, 1576 in Skoczow in the Cieszyn Siles region of Poland. His homeland was in the midst of the turmoil of Protestant Reformation, and conflicts between the neighboring countries only aggravated the situation. Jan went to the Jesuit college in Olomouc and started his philosophy studies there. He completed them in Prague with a doctoral dissertation. In 1609 he was ordained and sent to work in Moravia. He was assigned to parishes with particularly strong Protestant movements in the hopes that his talents would help stop the faithful from leaving the Church.

The Olomouc bishop sent him to minister in the areas where Catholicism was struggling with Lutheranism and Hussitism.

In 1616, St. Jan became parish priest in the predominantly Protestant Holesow. When the Thirty Years War started in 1618, his position was difficult. People from his parish urged him to stay in the shadows for some time, and he did so, to come back later on.

At the emperor's request, Polish King Sigismund III sent him Lisowczycy troops in support. They were commanded by Aleksander Lisowski, a well-known adventurer. They burned the towns down, plundered the villages and murdered their residents. In February 1620 Jan saved the city from robbery and repression, leading a procession with the Most Holy Sacrament to meet the approaching Lisowczycy. However, Sarkander was accused by Protestants of inviting the troops to the area and was soon put in prison in Olomouc. There, he was cruelly tortured; for example, he was racked so that his tendons burst and bones dislocated the torture lasted three hours. After long suffering, he died on March 17, 1620 in Olomouc. Jan Sarkander was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

O Mother Mary,
through the memory of Your martyred Son
and His servant Jan Sarkander,
we ask You for support for those
whose unfortunate fate is to live
under the rule of violence and hatred.
We ask You to grant them the strength
to endure in their faith despite tortures,
plagues and prison. Amen.