17 August 2013

17 August - Saint Hyacinth of Poland

At Cracow, in Poland, St. Hyacinth, confessor, of the Order of Preachers, who slept in the Lord on the 16th of this month.

Hyacinth or Jacek was born around 1185 in Silesia into the Polish noble family of Odrowatz.  His uncle Yvo was the bishop of Cracow, and early on, Hyacinth was made a Canon of the cathedral, so that he could help with the administration of the diocese. 

On a visit with his uncle to Rome, Hyacinth met Saint Dominic, and so embraced the zeal of the Hound of God, that he asked to be taken into Dominic’s new Order of Preachers.  After a few months of training, he went back to Cracow, where his own zeal in preaching brought many who had become lax in their faith to renew their commitments to Christ.  Here he established a Dominican priory in which the friars were trained and then dispersed to preach the Gospel to the pagan tribes in the east and north.  Hyacinth himself traveled over much of eastern Europe establishing churches and priories, and is said to have gone as far east as China.

“He had,” said Father Francis Xavier Weninger, “particular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin, and never undertook anything before offering his work to God and begging the assistance of His Blessed Mother.”

His most recounted miracle is the subject of the image above.  While serving Mass in Kiev, he learned that the Tartars (or Mongols) were besieging the city.  Upon the Ite, Missa est, he grabbed the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament and, still clad in his vestments, headed out of the church followed by his fellow friars.  As he was leaving, a large and heavy statue of the Blessed Mother, before which he was accustomed to say his prayers, said to him, “My son, why do you leave me behind to be trampled by my enemies?  Take me with you.”  When Hyacinth replied that she was too heavy to be carried [hardly a nice thing to say to a woman], she said, “My Son will lighten the burden.”  He lifted the statue and found that he could carry it in one hand.  So with the Blessed Sacrament in one hand and the statue of the Blessed Mother in the other, he led his followers out of the church and into the city.

Finding no enemy soldiers at one of the city gates, Hyacinth and his band made their way to the Dnieper River, over which the saint walked dry-shod.  By following in his footsteps, the others were able to cross as well.  They made it back to Cracow in safety, and the miraculous statue, now returned to its more substantial weight, was enshrined in a church in Lemberg.

Father Weninger concludes, “St. Hyacinth, carrying the Savior of the world in one hand, and in the other, the statue of the Blessed Virgin, walked past his enemies through the city.  Happy are they who carry Jesus and Mary, not only on their lips, but also in their hands! They will ever walk safely amid dangers, unharmed by the enemies of their salvation.”

Some seventeen years after this episode, Hyacinth was given heavenly notice that his time on earth was at an end, and after celebrating the Mass of the Feast of the Assumption, he died of a wasting fever in 1257.  His body rests in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Cracow, in the chapel bearing his name.  He was canonized in 1594, and for centuries his feast day was the 16th of August.  At some point in the mid-20th century, his day was moved to the 17th, perhaps because Saint Joachim, grandfather of Our Lord, was given his own feast on the 16th  (until 1969).

O God, who didst make Blessed Hyacinth Thy Confessor glorious amongst the people of divers nations for the holiness of his life and the glory of his miracles, grant that by his example we may amend our lives, and be defended by his help in all adversities.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Mary’s Garden

William Hone, in his “Every-day Book” dedicates the beautiful Belladonna Lily (Amaryllis Belladonna, not to be confused with Deadly Nightshade) to St. Hyacinth, but this plant seem to like the warmer climates.  In the Smallest State, hyacinths (Hyacinthus Orientalis) bloom early and often, and the little Grape Hyacinths (genus Muscari) not only are one of the first to flower (sometimes while the snow still covers the ground) but do particularly well without any extraordinary attention.  Trust me.

Somewhere along the line, Hyacinth became the patron saint of pierogi. Not sure why, as none of the early books refer to this patronage, but perhaps it is a cultural thing.  The usual explanation says that “Swiety Jacek z pierogami” (“St Hyacinth and his pierogi!”) as an expression of surprise or astonishment, (like “Heavens to Betsy!” or the Widow’s favorite “Oh my stars and garters!”) has something to do with it.  Or perhaps Saint Hyacinth found pierogi on one of his many missionary journeys and introduced them to Polish cuisine when he came home. Be that as it may, Pierogi are delicious, and entirely fitting for today’s dinner.  You can find several recipes online, or (like the Widow) take the path of least resistance and gather unto yourself pierogi which are already made and ready to be cooked.  Even better is if you are near a Polish community which is celebrating Saint Hyacinth and makes freshly cooked pierogi a main part of their celebration.  What is nice about them (apart from general deliciousness) is that they can form the appetizer, main, and dessert courses by a variation in ingredients.

And of course, one must have a glass of the Dowager Lady Ursula’s gome made hooseberry hind!

Artwork: “Saint Hyacinth”, from Pictorial Lives of the Saints, John Gilmary Shea.

Hyacinth [aka The Bucket Woman!] of Keeping Up Appearances.