A Short Account of the Life of Our Patron Saint
Saint Hyacinth was born in 1185. He was born into nobility as his father was of the noble family of Odrowacz. His birth took place in the castle of Lanka at Karim, which is in Silesia. Almost from the cradle, Hyacinth seemed predisposed to virtue. God also blessed him with, a splendid mind. His parents not only fostered his happy disposition, but also used great care in selecting the teachers that would protect this innocence. In this way, he was so well grounded in his religious duties that he passed through his higher studies at Cracow, Prague, and Bologna, without tarnish to his pure soul. Upon completion of his studies at Bologna, Saint Hyacinth earned the title of Doctor of Canon Law and Divinity. Doubtless his model life had much to do in helping him to win the admiration of both his professors and fellow-students.
When he returned to return to Poland he was given a prebend at Sandomir. In 1220 he accompanied his uncle Ivo Konski, the Bishop of Cracow, to Rome. Here they met with Saint Dominic. At this time, Saint Hyacinth was one of the first to receive the habit of the newly established Order of Friars Preachers at from Saint Dominic. Because of his spirit for prayer and his zeal for the salvation of souls, he was sent to preach and establish the Dominican Order in his native land, Poland. On the way he was able to establish a convent of his order at Friesach in Carinthia. In Poland the new preachers were favorably received and their sermons were productive of much good. Hyacinth founded communities at Sandomir, Cracow, and at Plocko on the Vistula in Moravia. He extended his missionary work through Prussia, Pomerania, and Lithuania; then crossing the Baltic Sea he preached in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It was these apostolic travels that earned Hyacinth the title "The Apostle of the North".
His travels and missions did not end here. He came into Lower or Red Russia, establishing a community at Lemberg and at Haletz on the Mester; proceeded into Muscovy, and founded a convent at Dieff, and came as far as the shores of the Black Sea. Because of his evangelizing, multitudes were converted, and churches and convents were built.
However manifold were his duties, the future Friar Preacher did not permit them to interfere with his good works, dampen his spirit of prayer, or to lessen his practice of recollection. None were more punctual or exact in their recitation of the divine office by the canons. He regularly visited hospitals were the sick found him a sympathetic comforter. A friend to the poor, he distributed his income among them. He felt that money received through the Church could not be devoted to a better or more advantageous use.
Saint Hyacinth is known to have performed numerous miracles. The one miracle that has been most associated with him was the result of the Tartars siege of the city of Kiev. Hyacinth gained a child-like and tender devotion to the Mother of God from Saint Dominic. To her he attributed his success, and to her aid he looked for his salvation. When Hyacinth was at Kiev, the fierce Tartars sacked the town. Hyacinth was celebrating the Mass and did not know of the onslaught and danger until the Mass ended. Without waiting to unvest, he took the ciborium in his hands and was fleeing the church. It is recorded that as he passed by an statue of Mary he heard a voice say, "Hyacinth, my son, why dost thou leave me behind? Take me with thee and leave me not to mine enemies." Although the statue was made of heavy alabaster, Hyacinth took it in his arms and carried it away along with the ciborium with the Holy Eucharist. It is for this miraculous moment that Saint Hyacinth is most often depicted. The story continues that Hyacinth and the community that accompanied him came to the river Dnieper. There he urged them to follow him across the river. He led the way, and they all walked dry shod across the waters of the deep river, which then protected them from the fury of the Tartars. Polish historians are in agreement on this marvelous fact, although some of the writers confuse it with a similar crossing of the Vistula which happened earlier. A circumstance, which is recorded in connection with this miracle, renders it all the more remarkable. It is said that the footprints of the saint remained on the water, even after he had crossed the river; and that, when the stream was calm, they could be seen for centuries afterwards.
Worn out by his constant labors and vast journeys, Hyacinth spent the last few months of his life in a convent he had founded at Cracow. There on the Feast of Saint Dominic in 1257, he fell sick with a fever that was to lead to his death. On the eve of the feast of the Assumption, he was warned of his coming death. In spite of his condition, he attended Mass on the Feast of the Assumption. He was anointed at the altar, and died the same day in 1257.
He was canonized in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII. The feast day of St. Hyacinth is celebrated on August 17th.