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Catholic Heroes . . . St. Wolfgang

October 28, 2014 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

October 31 has come to be yet another Christian holy day corrupted by our secular society. All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is now celebrated with emphasis on evil and horror. Corn mazes with frightening objects around the corner, haunted houses to terrify even the bravest of persons, glorification of vampires, and decorations of death and witches — these are some of the things that have replaced processions honoring the saints of our Catholic history.
October 31 can be remembered for another infamous occurrence in history. It was on that date in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where the largest collection of holy relics was kept.
As Catholics, we have a reason to celebrate this day as the feast day of St. Wolfgang, a man from Germany whose name means “hero in front of whom walks the wolf of victory.” He is the earliest known bearer of the name Wolfgang, after which many famous people in German history have been named.
Around 930 St. Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany, about 40 miles northwest of Munich. As a descendant of the Swabian counts of Pfullingen, he received his education at home by an ecclesiastic. Later he attended the school of Reichenau Abbey near the Swiss border.
At the abbey, Wolfgang became friends with Henry, who happened to be the brother of the bishop of Wurzburg. The bishop had begun a school there, so Henry and Wolfgang went to Wurzburg to study. Because of his brilliance, Wolfgang quickly won praise as well as the envy of some of his peers.
When Wolfgang was 26, his friend Henry was elected archbishop of Tiers. The new archbishop persuaded Wolfgang to accompany him to his new assignment, where he installed Wolfgang as a teacher at the local cathedral.
In Tiers, Wolfgang met Ramwold, a quiet and disciplined monk. Knowing and living with Ramwold greatly influenced Wolfgang to live such a life himself. Henry, Wolfgang, and Ramwold sought to improve the religion of the diocese, meeting with much resistance. When Henry died in 964, Wolfgang left Tiers to join the Benedictine monastery of Marie Einsiedeln in Switzerland.
The abbot, recognizing the holiness and intelligence of Wolfgang, quickly appointed him head of the school run by the monastery. Four years later, one of the great saints of the time, St. Ulrich, ordained Wolfgang a priest. The Ordination instilled a great missionary zeal in St. Wolfgang, resulting in his being sent to minister to the Magyars.
Because of the dangers posed by the aggressive pagan Magyars, St. Ulrich discerned that the only way to eliminate their menace was to convert them. Emperor Otto the Great concurred and thus Wolfgang was sent on mission to the Magyars around 970.
Although he did not meet with much success, it is interesting to note that Geza, the grand prince of Hungary (d. 997), did convert and raised his son St. Stephen of Hungary to be a Christian. After Wolfgang returned from his mission to the Magyars, he traveled to meet Piligrim, the bishop of Passau. Piligrim, who had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the land of the Magyars, sent missionaries to continue the work that St. Wolfgang had begun.
During the time after his return to Bavaria, Wolfgang taught Poppe, son of Margrave Luitpold, the archbishop of Tiers, and Tagino, archbishop of Magdeburg.
When Bishop Michael of Ratisbon (also known as Regensburg) died on September 23, 972, Piligrim recommended that Wolfgang replace him. Hence, now that St. Wolfgang had returned to Germany, Emperor Otto II approved of the installation of Wolfgang as the bishop of Regensburg, which see was vacant. Even though he begged to be allowed to return to the monastery for quiet and prayer, he was consecrated as bishop of Ratisbon at Christmas Day 972.
As bishop, he called his old friend Ramwold to come to his diocese to assist in its reformation. Particularly, he wanted Ramwold to reform the ancient Abbey of St. Emmeram. Wolfgang allowed them to select their own abbots, much to the benefit of the abbey.
In 976 while traveling through Austria, he came to what is now called Wolfgangsee. On the shores of this lake, he threw his ax, declaring that where it landed he would build a church. The sight of this beautiful church is a place of popular pilgrimage to this day.
Even though St. Wolfgang never abandoned his monastic habit or the lifestyle that he had developed during his monastic stay, he still upheld the dignity and the responsibilities of his office. He continued the reforms of the clergy and the monasteries. He founded the convent of St. Paul in Mittelmunster; he got the convents of Obermunster and Niedermunster to reform by following its example.
Bishop Wolfgang’s primary objective was to restore the faith of the people of his diocese. He demonstrated his strong spiritual poverty by readily agreeing to surrender some of his diocesan lands to the emperor in order to establish a new diocese — the Diocese of Prague. Likewise, after the crop of grapes was decimated, some poor misguided priests celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass using water in the chalice. St. Wolfgang went to his personal supply of wine and distributed it to the priests.
Several times he traveled to France to take part in various imperial diets. One time he even traveled in the company of the emperor. Another time he accompanied the emperor on a campaign as a spiritual adviser.
Despite diligently tending to the secular administrative responsibilities of being a bishop, St. Wolfgang sought times of solitude for prayer and contemplation. One time he had been gone for so long that some huntsmen found him and returned him to his home.
While traveling on the Danube, he fell ill. He had intended to visit Pochlarn. in lower Austria but never made it any farther than Pupping in upper Austria. At his request, he was carried into the chapel where he died in 994. He was canonized in 1052.
Dear St. Wolfgang, as we remember you on your feast day of October 31, help us to think of the need for Catholics to follow your example. Help us to adapt a spirit of poverty and seek the treasures of eternity. Help us to seek places and times of quiet so that we may become better acquainted with Jesus and His will for us. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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