Saint John Nepomucene
Priest and Martyr
Saint John Nepomucene was born in 1330, in answer to the prayer of his parents, whowere poor folk of Nepomuc in Bohemia. In gratitude they consecrated him to God. Hisholy life as a priest led to his appointment as chaplain to the court of the EmperorWenceslaus, where he converted many by his preaching and example.
Among those who sought his advice was the virtuous empress, who suffered much fromher husband’s unfounded jealousy. Saint John taught her to bear her cross with joy; buther piety only incensed the emperor, and he tried to extort an account of her confessionsfrom the Saint. He threw Saint John into a dungeon but gained nothing; then, invitinghim to his palace, he promised him riches if he would yield, and threatened death if herefused. The Saint was silent. He was racked and burnt with torches; but no wordsexcept the holy names of Jesus and Mary fell from his lips. At last set free, he spent timein preaching and preparing for the death he knew to be near.
On Ascension Eve, May 16th, Wenceslaus, after a final and fruitless attempt to alter theconstancy of the faithful priest, ordered him to be cast into the river. That night themartyr’s hands and feet were bound, and he was thrown from the bridge of Prague intothe Moldau River. Heavenly lights shining on the water and from under it, revealed thewhereabouts of the body, which was soon buried with the honors due to a Saint.
A few years later, Wenceslaus was deposed by his own subjects, and died an impenitentand miserable death. In 1618 the Calvinist and Hussite soldiers of the Elector Fredericktried repeatedly to demolish the shrine of Saint John in Prague. Each attempt wasmiraculously frustrated, and once the persons engaged in the sacrilege died suddenly onthe spot. During a battle in 1620 the imperial troops recovered the city by a victorywhich was ascribed to the Saint’s intercession, since he was seen on the eve of theconflict, radiant with glory, guarding the cathedral. When his shrine was opened threehundred and thirty years after his decease, the flesh had disappeared, and one memberalone remained incorrupt, the tongue, which thus, still in silence, gave glory to God.