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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

The Sacred Seal of Confession

Feast of St. John of Nepomucene

Patron of Confessors

Feast Day, May 16


Over John's home in Nepomuk, Bohemia, when he was born in 1330, strange lights were visible. He was healed of a terrible disease by the Holy Virgin Mary when he was a little boy. His life's work became preaching after he was ordained a Priest, and he achieved remarkable success in this endeavor. His sermons, which were heard by throngs of people, transformed Prague as a city. He is still the most adored saint in Prague.

Father John of Nepomucene declined the titles of provost of Witchad and chancellor of the Kingdom bestowed upon him by Wenceslas IV, King of Bohemia and Emperor of Germany, in order to maintain his status as a regular canon. In a short time, he was selected by the Empress to be her confessor.

Unfortunately for his subjects, King Wenceslas strayed from the straight and narrow and eventually became a tyrant. In his marriage, he developed a great mistrust and jealousy of his wife, the Empress, who used to spend hours in the church pleading for his conversion. Because the king had negative thoughts about his wife, he summoned St. John Nepomucene and told him to tell him what she had confessed. As for the saintly Priest, he refused.

This occurred on multiple occasions. St. John remained steadfast in his refusal to break the seal of confession. The King was afraid of a popular uprising due to the fact that the Priest was dearly beloved by the people, so he released him after torturing and imprisoning him multiple times. Even when the King made a death threat, St. John Nepomucene stood his ground. He would never violate the solemn seal of the confessional.

Sensing his own death approaching, he preached one day on Our Lord's words, "Yet a little while, and you will see Me, and a little while, you will not see Me." As he prayed at the foot of the statue of Our Lady that St. Cyril and St. Methodius had brought to the area, he was threatened. Wenceslas's spies seized him when he returned to Prague. He did not waver; when he was subjected to torture once more, he was unwilling to compromise the Sacrament of Confession by revealing what sins had been confessed by the King's wife.

At last, the King gave the order to have him drowned in the river. That evening St. John of Nepomucene was flung into the Moldau River from Prague's Charles Bridge while his hands and feet were chained. Five stars flashed out over the spot where his body fell into the water. Prague residents flocked to see the wonder in huge numbers. The King, frightened by the miraculous sign of the appearance of the stars, of which the Empress informed him, shut himself in his room for several days.

This Chapel near Prague is built in honor of St. John of Nepomucene.

It is surrounded by a star-shaped wall to commemorate the miracle after his death.

In 1719, his incorruptible body was discovered in perfect condition in the Moldau River, as though it had been tossed into it minutes earlier. Many years later, when his tomb was opened, his tongue was found still uncorrupt, reminding all of the glorious preaching he gave for the glory of God and salvation of souls, and of the perfect silence he kept by preserving perfectly the sacred seal of Confession.

 Tomb of St. John of Nepomucene.


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