St. Stephen of Hungary (975-1038) played an important role in Christianizing his country. Stephen was born a pagan, but as a youth, he and his father, Duke Geza, were baptized by the Bohemian bishop St. Adalbert of Prague. At the age of twenty Stephen married Gisela, the sister of the Emperor St. Henry II.
In 997 Stephen succeeded his father as duke, and immediately began promoting Christianity (for both religious and political reasons). After consolidating his rule, he asked the pope to confer the title “king” upon him; this was done on Christmas Day 1001.
Stephen energetically guided and assisted the establishment of the Church in Hungary. He abolished pagan customs (sometimes violently, for that was the accepted manner of the age); he established monasteries and aided efforts to convert the common people. Though successful in many ways, Stephen’s last seven years were bitter ones. His beloved son Emeric (also revered as a saint), whom he had carefully prepared to be his successor, was killed in a hunting accident in 1031, and his relatives shamelessly fought over which of them would be the heir to the throne (with some of his nephews actually trying to kill him). Stephen died in 1038; in 1083 both he and his son Emeric were canonized.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Joachim (1st Century), father of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Roch (1327), devotee of the Sign of the Cross