St. Olaf, King and Martyr

St. Olaf, King and Martyr

The patron saint of our parish is St. Olaf, King and Martyr. He is also the patron saint of Norway, where his feast day is celebrated on July 29. Each year on the weekend closest to this date we celebrate “St. Olaf Day” with special music, prayers, and Scandinavian treats.

Olaf Haraldsson (c. 995 – 1030) was born in Ringerike, Norway, son of a Viking lord. During a trip to Normandy, Olaf experienced the vibrant life of French Christianity and, exchanging Viking lore for the Christian faith, he was baptized at Rouen. This was a period when Christianity was still united, before the Great Schism between Orthodox and Catholic Christians, and long before the Reformation and Counter-reformation. After his baptism, Olaf felt called to return to Norway and unite the various tribes under Christ. That he did, reigning as the first king of the united Norway beginning in 1015. Olaf brought a governing system, legal protections, and freedoms to the people under “King Olaf’s law,” which looked to Christ as the standard for action and law.

In 1028, King Olaf lost the throne to invaders and went into exile. In 1030, inspired to come back to Norway and retake the country for Christ, Olaf returned with his loyal forces. He lost his life on the battlefield, martyred by the blow of a rebel’s axe (which St. Olaf is holding in his statue above our sanctuary). After his death, many miracles ensued and Norway did, indeed, became a Christian country again. In 1164, after more than a century of veneration within Norway, Olaf received pontifical canonization as a saint.

When we venerate Olaf, we honor his faith, courage, and commitment to spreading the gospel, no matter the cost. We ask for the grace to follow God’s will for us and “to serve as a living sign of Christ’s saving presence.”

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