Thursday, September 07, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of SS. Melchior Grodziecki, Stephan Pongracz and Mark Krizevcanin.

Today the Church remembers Saints Melchior Grodziecki, Stephan Pongracz and Mark Krizevcanin, three courageous priests who died as martyrs in the Slovakian city of Kosice in 1619. Following the religious wars of the early 17th century, the Catholics of Kosice were left bereft of spiritual support and found themselves surrounded by Hungarian Calvinists. In response to pleas from local leaders, Jesuits Melchior Grodziecki and Stephan Pongracz were sent to Kosice to minister to the people. Joined by Mark Krizevcanin, a diocesan priest from Croatia, Grodziecki and Pongracz won the gratitude of local Catholics and attracted scorn from area Calvinists for the ardor of their ministry. Calvinist troops occupied the city of Kosice in September 1619, imprisoning the three priests and threatening them with death if they refused to renounce their faith. Unwilling to apostasize, Grodziecki, Pongracz and Krizevcanin died under torture on September 7th. Canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1995, the Martyrs of Kosice now stand before all the Church as an example of heroic witness to the faith.

In the consciousness of North American Catholics, Melchior Grodziecki, Stephan Pongracz and Mark Krizevcanin are comparatively obscure figures. Even among Jesuits, they do not attract the same attention received by saints like Edmund Campion, Paul Miki and Jean de Brebeuf -near-contemporaries of the Martyrs of Kosice who died under similar circumstances, ministering in areas where Catholics were persecuted and apostasy was publicly rewarded. Though the particulars may differ, Christian martyrs may be found in every place and in every age. The Jesuit martyrology continues to grow year by year, as the names of men like Richie Fernando, Elie Koma and Martin Royackers are added to the list of members of the Society who have lost their lives in the service of the Gospel. To those of us who enjoy the comfort and relative security of North American life, the martyrs of the early Society and contemporary Jesuit martyrs offer a reproach and a challenge. The martyrs reproach us for too often remaining complacent in the face of injustice and for closing our eyes to the many forms of sinfulness that surround us. At the same time, the martyrs also challenge us to recognize the more subtle form of martyrdom that we are ourselves face each day - the martyrdom of those who seek to remain faithful to the Gospel in a secular and materialistic society. As we remember our brothers Melchoir, Stephan and Mark, may we take courage and gain strength from their example. AMDG.


At 9/07/2006 2:43 PM, Blogger Ricardo said...

Dear Joe:

The teachers and students of the "San Ignacio de Loyola" school of Piura, Perú, will be very happy if you could help us to make contacts with secondary students in jesuits americans schools. We want to make more relevant the English learning. Please see our web page: and write to: Walter Rodríguez:; Ricardo Riofrío:; or to Liliana Morales:

Regards from Piura

At 9/07/2006 3:24 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

To my friends in Piura,

I'll pass your contact information along to people I know in some of the Jesuit high schools here. I'm sure some of them will be interested in making contact with the students at San Ignacio. All the best,



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