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Article: May 18 + Saint Eric of Sweden

May 18 + Saint Eric of Sweden - VENXARA®

May 18 + Saint Eric of Sweden

Eric IX was born into wealth in 1120, married Princess Christina of Denmark and had 4 children. Though not of royal lines himself, it was his personal merits that earned him the crown of the realm around 1156. Although thrust into power and all the responsibilities accompanying it, the young king’s main concern was his relationship with God. He was known for his extensive mortifications and fasting in addition to regular times of prayer and contemplation. These practices strengthened his efforts to fortify the practice of the Faith among his subjects, which included building churches and restraining vice.

Eric was an attentive king who is remembered for his care of the poor – sometimes through direct visits and almsgiving. He promoted impartial justice for all and supervised a definitive collation of laws – known as King Eric’s Law or The Code of Uppland – that strengthened the Swedish social order and codified Swedish law according to the principles of the Gospel.

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 the Bishop of Uppsala, to accompany him into battle and then stay behind after the victory to evangelize the Finnish people – a missionary effort that met with success, but which also won Bishop Henry the crown of martyrdom.

A group of irreligious and anti-Christian rebels in league with a Danish prince hatched a scheme to take control of the Swedish throne. King Eric was attending Mass on the Feast of the Ascension when he received word that the insurgents were coming for him. With unwavering calm he answered, “Let us at least finish the Sacrifice; the rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere.”

At the closing of the Mass, Eric recommended his soul to God, and to minimize casualties among his loyal supporters, insisted on facing his enemies alone. As he left the Church, he was pulled off his horse onto the ground by the swarming rebels, who taunted and stabbed him, and then beheaded him on May 18, 1161. Because of his zeal to defend his country and his Faith, his banner has been worn for centuries by Swedes, including non-Catholics.

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