Emily M. DeArdo

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St. Hyacinth of Poland: The Apostle of the North

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdoComment

St. Hyacinth is a pretty cool saint, and I'd never heard of him until I started my formation with the Dominicans. He's called the "apostle of the north" because of his work spreading the Dominican order to the northern parts of Europe. 

He also carries around statues. But more on that in a second.

St. Hyacinth was a contemporary of St. Dominic's, being born around 1185 to a noble Polish family. He studied in Krakow and Bologna and received his Doctor of Law and Divinity. When in Rome with his uncle, the Bishop of Krakow, he witnessed a miracle performed by St. Dominic. He immediately entered the Dominican order with two companions and received the habit from St. Dominic himself in 1220. After an abbreviated novitiate, he and his companions were sent back to Poland to establish the order there. 

St. Hyacinth established new monasteries as he and his companions traveled north. He alone continued to Krakow and went through northern Europe spreading the faith. Tradition holds that he went as far as Scotland, Greece, Turkey, Russian, Sweden, Lithuania, Norway, and Denmark. 

It was in Kiev that his most famous miracle occurred. The Mongols were attacking the city, and the friars were preparing to flee the invading forces. Hyacinth went to the chapel to take the ciborium (the container that holds Consecrated Hosts--which means they have become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ) with him. As he opened the tabernacle, he heard the voice of Mary asking him to take her, as well. A large stone statue of Mary was in the chapel. Taking both the statue and the ciborium, Hyacinth kept them safely with the friars and safe from desecration by the Mongols. 

St. Hyacinth died in 1257, and was canonized by Pope Clement VIII on April 17, 1594

His feast day is August 17 (what a coincidence!), and he is the patron of Lithuania and those in danger of drowning. He is also, in some places, the "patron" of pirogies. He is also called the "Polish St. Dominic" for his evangelistic zeal. He was the seventh Dominican to be canonized, and he is pictured among the saints in the Bernini Colonnade outside St. Peter's Basilica.