Saint of the Day – 24 September – Blessed Anton Martin Slomsek (1800-1862) – Bishop, Writer, Poet, Educator, Reformer, Preacher, Founder of schools, a newspaper, Advocate of literacy and the Slovenian culture and language. (26 November 1800 in Ponikva pri Zalcu, Savinjska, Slovenia – 24 September 1862 in Maribor, Podravska, Slovenia of natural causes). Patronages – Students, Educators, Writers, Poets, Wine makers, Diocese of Lavant. Attributes – Episcopal attire.
Bl Anton Martin Slomsek was a Slovene prelate who served as the Bishop of Lavant from 1846 until his death. He served also as an author and poet as well as a staunch advocate of the nation’s culture. He served in various parishes as a simple priest prior to his becoming a bishop in which his patriotic activism increased. He advocated writing and the need for education. He penned textbooks for schools including those that he himself opened and he was a vocal supporter of ecumenism and led efforts to achieve greater dialogue with other faiths with an emphasis on the Eastern Orthodox Church.
He was the eighth child to the peasants Marko Slomšek and Marija née Zorko on 26 November 1800 in Styria in Slovenia. The priest Blaž Slomšek (1708–1740) was his paternal uncle and Janez Slomšek (1831–1909) was his paternal cousin Gregorius’ son.
He underwent his theological and philosophical studies from 1821 (a classmate was the poet France Prešeren) in order to enter the priesthood and he was ordained on 8 September 1824. He first served as a parish chaplain at Bizeljsko and then at Nova Cerkev. From 1829 until 1838 he served as the spiritual director of seminarians at Klagenfurt. In 1844 he relocated and headed the school in Lavant while also serving as the cathedral canon there. He became the parish priest in Celje in March 1846 just prior to his episcopal appointment. In one of his final appointments, Pope Gregory XVI, made Slomšek the new Bishop of Lavant and he received his episcopal consecration a couple of months later in Salzburg, although he did not celebrate his formal installation until September 1859, when he first moved to his new see.
He strove for religious education in schools and for education in Slovene; he began writing numerous books on the matter. Slomšek was considered to be an excellent preacher as well as a tireless and modest cleric. The bishop oversaw the construction of new schools and he himself issued textbooks for students and edited others while also publishing his own sermons and episcopal statements. Today the region is nearly 100% literate, much of it due to Bishop Anton’s good work. He wrote songs and some of which achieved great social standing and some are still sung to the present day. Together with Andrej Einspieler and Anton Janežič he was the co-founder of the Hermagoras Association which is the oldest Slovene publishing house. He founded movements for greater ecumenism efforts.
Pope Pius IX entrusted him with the mission to renew the religious life in Benedictine monasteries and so he made a series of apostolic visits to see these places. He invited the Vincentians to settle in his diocese and in 1846 began the newspaper “Drobtinice” for his diocese. He also founded the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius in 1851 for greater ecumenism with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Bl Anton also supported those in the missions and prompted the Spiritual Exercises.
Bl Anton died on 24 September 1862 after having suffered a series of stomach ailments for some time. His remains are interred in the Maribor Cathedral.
His life of heroic virtue was confirmed on 13 May 1996 and this allowed for Pope John Paul II to title him as Venerable. The miracle for his beatification was approved by St Pope John Paul on 3 July 1998 and beatified Slomšek in Maribor while in Slovenia on 19 September 1999.