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.
The dawn of the nineteenth century found the Slovenian schools in a precarious condition – their number was pitifully small and the courses they offered were inadequate and unsatisfactory. This deplorable state was due to the fact that the Austrian officials endeavoured to suppress the national language and, to achieve this end, introduced foreign teachers thoroughly distasteful to the people, whom in turn they despised. Moreover, books, magazines, papers and other educational influences were lacking, not because they would not have been gladly welcomed but because they were forbidden by the Government, in its fear of Panslavism.
This situation Bishop Slomsek was compelled to face. A man of initiative and discernment, the changes he wrought in a short time were wonderful. In the Constitution of 1848, granting national rights long denied, he found his instrument. Following this measure, though only after many futile attempts, he received official sanction to undertake the reform of the schools. The first fruits of his labours were a series of excellent text-books, many from his own pen, which proved powerful factors in the growth and development of religious as well as national education.
The founding of the weekly, “Drobtinice” (Crumbs), was his next step. Essays and books on a great variety of subjects, embracing practically every question on which his countrymen stood in need of enlightenment, were published in quick succession and his vigorous and incisive style, well adapted to the intelligence of his readers, though not lacking scholarly refinement, made his works exceedingly popular.
His pastorals and sermons constitute a literature of lasting value. In 1841 he sought to realise a dream of years — the establishment of a society for the spread of Catholic literature. Unfortunately, the movement was branded as Panslavistic and failed at the time but ten years later this organisation was effected and Druzba sv. Mohora began sending a few instructive books to Catholic homes. Today, a million educational volumes have been distributed among a million and a half of people.
Although Bl Anton was ardent and active in the interests of his own race, yet he was admired and loved by great men of other nations and his kindness and tact eliminated all bitterness from the controversies in which he was forced to engage.
Patriotism, the education of his people, their temporal and spiritual welfare, were his inspiring motives, as the non-Catholic Makusev remarks: “Education, based on religion and nationality, was his lofty aim”.
Humility and childlike simplicity marked his life. His priests, sincerely devoted to him, frequently heard him repeat the words: “When I was born, my mother laid me on a bed of straw and I desire no better pallet when I die, asking only to be in the state of grace and worthy of salvation”.
“The new blessed is offered to you as a model of true patriotism. His projects left a decisive mark on your people’s future and made an important contribution to the achievement of independence. In turning my gaze to the beloved region of the Balkans, unfortunately scarred in recent years by conflict and violence, extreme forms of nationalism, cruel ethnic cleansing and wars between peoples and cultures, I would like to call everyone’s attention to the witness of this new blessed.
He shows that it is possible to be sincere patriots and with equal sincerity to coexist and cooperate with people of other nationalities, other cultures and other religions. May his example and especially his intercession obtain solidarity and genuine peace for all the peoples of this vast area of Europe.”
St Pope John Paul II at the Beatification of Bl Anton Slomsek in Slovenia on Sunday, 19 September 1999