紀念日 / Memorial date
Saint Eric of Sweden, Martyr
Born into wealth and the son of an Upland lord, Eric assumed the throne of Sweden around 1156. Although thrust into power and all the responsibilities accompanying it, the young king’s chief concern was his relationship with God, and he was known for his extensive mortifications and fasting in addition to regular times of prayer and contemplation. These practices buttressed his efforts to fortify the practice of the Faith among his subjects, which included building churches and restraining vice.
Eric was a solicitous king who is remembered for his care of the poor – sometimes through direct visits and almsgiving. Also, he promoted impartial justice for all and, toward that end, supervised a definitive collation of laws – the Code of Uppland – that strengthened the Swedish social order.
When that social order was threatened by pagan raiders from neighboring Finland, King Eric took up arms in defense of his people. Even so, Eric sought the good of his foes by inducing St. Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, to accompany him into battle and then stay behind after the victory to evangelize the Finnish populace.
The king’s zeal for the Catholic Faith was far from pleasing to his nobles, who entered into a conspiracy against him with Magnus, the son of the king of Denmark.
King Eric was hearing Mass on the day after the feast of the Ascension when news was brought that a Danish army, swollen with Swedish rebels, was marching against him and was close at hand. With unwavering calm he answered, “Let us at least finish the sacrifice; the rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere”.
Following the liturgy, Eric abandoned himself to God and, to minimize casualties among his loyal supporters, insisted on facing his enemies alone. As soon as they saw the monarch exit the church, the mob attacked, knocked him to the ground, and cut off his head. It was May 18, 1161.
The tomb of King Eric became a site of pilgrimage where many healings were reported. Though never formally canonized, Eric was long considered the Patron of Sweden.
O God, who didst call thy servant Eric of Sweden
to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom,
and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people:
Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day
may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.