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Sep 08, 2023 541 Shalom Tidings
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“I will rather die a thousand times…”

Do you know the first martyr who preferred to die rather than to reveal the secret of confession? In 14th-century Prague, there lived Father John Nepomucene, who was a famous preacher. As his fame spread, King Wenceslaus IV invited him to the court to settle arguments and take care of the needs of the people in the city. He eventually became the queen’s confessor, spiritually guiding her to patiently bear the cross of the King’s cruelty.

One day, the King, who was infamous for his outbursts of anger and jealousy, called the priest into his chambers and started questioning him about the queen’s confessions. Father John refused to reveal the confession secrets despite the King’s attempted bribes and torture; consequently, he was imprisoned. The King kept coercing him, and even offered him riches and honor in return. When he saw that bribery wouldn’t work, he threatened the priest with the death penalty. Father John was made to undergo all manner of torture, including the burning of his sides with torches, but even that would not move him.

Finally, the King ordered him to be put in chains, led through the city with a block of wood in his mouth, and to be thrown from Charles Bridge (the Karlsbrücke) into the river Moldau. The saint’s response remained the same and he exclaimed: “I will rather die a thousand times.” The King’s cruel order was executed on March 20, 1393. The body of John of Nepomuk was thereafter drawn out of the Moldau and entombed in the Cathedral of Prague.

In 1719, when his grave in the cathedral was opened, his tongue was found to be uncorrupted though shriveled. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729. Often pictured near a bridge with a finger to his lips and with five stars over his head, it is believed that on the night Father John was murdered, five stars were seen over the spot where he drowned. For his valiant act of faithfulness to the confessional norms, Father John Nepomucene is considered as the patron saint of confessors.

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