Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stephen I of Hungary's Letter to his Son on the Duties of Christian Rulers

Stephen I of Hungary (who reigned 1001-1038) once wrote a letter to his son, Emeric, offering fatherly and Christian advice on how to rule as king. 

While Stephen's son would die in an accident and leave Stephen without an heir, the letter nevertheless has some wisdom to be gleaned for Christian rulers. We must first note, however, that we do not approve of Stephen's Catholicism, which comes out in this letter. 

Nevertheless, when one chews the meat and spits out the bones, Christian rulers can benefit from this letter's insights, which emphasizes 1) the importance of being a good example; 2) protecting the Christian religion; 3) not being negatively influenced by prosperity or adversity; 4) ruling justly; and 5) living honorably. 

Stephen I's Letter to Emeric:

"My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. ...

"However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect. ...

"Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. ... Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death."

Cited in Bert Ghezzi, Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey with Our Spiritual Companions (Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2000), 328, 329. Source disclaimer: We do not endorse this pro-Roman Catholic book.

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