Martyr (1576 -1622)
Mark Roy was a native of the town of Sigmaringen in south¬western Germany, where his father was mayor. He practised law for some six years and, famed for his scrupulous honesty and life of mortification, made himself a name as the sympathetic “advocate of the poor”. But the law courts then were so corrupt that at 34, he abandoned his profession in favour of the priesthood, and then, having sold all his possessions for the benefit of the poor, he joined the Capuchins at Freiburg in the Black Forest, taking the name of Fidelis, on 4 October 1612.
St Fidelis’ burning zeal was directed especially towards the conversion of those who had fallen prey to Calvinism and Zwinglianism, and to this end he used not only his oratorical skills in the pulpit, but also wrote numerous anonymous pamphlets.
In 1621 he was directed by the Papal Nuncio to reform a Benedictine monastery at Pfaefers, and his superiors sent him to do missionary work among the Zwinglians in the Swiss Canton of the Grisons (Graubuenden). He accomplished both tasks with such astonishing success that, in 1622, Pope Gregory XV, through the newly founded Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome, made him head of the Grisons missions.
Fidelis travelled through the Alps in absolute poverty, depending solely upon God’s Providence for his daily needs and armed only with his Crucifix, Bible, Breviary and the book of the Capuchin rule. He would often preach and catechize several times during the day in the churches or open squares, perfectly oblivious to the threats and insults to which he was subjected by the infuriated Protestants. At times he focused his attention on the city magistrates in lengthy conferences which lasted far into the night, and the conversion and public recantation of the most influential citizen would then bring about numerous other conversions.
The Protestant ministers at length became seriously alarmed over his signal successes and roused the populace by imputing political motives to his mission. Thus, on 24 April 1622, he was dragged from the pulpit by an angry mob, and on his refusal to apostatize to the Protestant preachers, he was slain.
The first Martyr of the Capuchin Order and of the Propagation of the Faith, Fidelis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV on 20 June 1746.
Reflection :"The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages" (St Fidelis of Sigmaringen).