The Jesuit Novice, Venerable Stephan Kaszap, Servant of God became a legend among the Hungarian people, not only because of the intercessions attributed to him, but it was his heroic suffering and discovery of its meaning. It became the source of strength for many people tortured by illnesses or by persecutions. Stephen Kaszap was not the only one who suffered with heroic dedication, but God made him outstanding example that the faithful learned to love and to trust.
Stephen Kaszap was born the third of five children, on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1916 in Székesfehérvár, once the Roman town of Alba Regia in Hungary. His father was chief supervisor at the local post office. Both parents were careful to have family prayers each evening and to be certain that the children memorized their basic prayers at an early age. Following the custom for Sunday Mass, the Kaszap family had a family pew the pulpit in the local church.
His boyhood was happy and carefree. After his elementary school of four years, he continued his studies at the Cistercian Fathers, where he studied for 8 years. During his early high school years he was only mediocre student. But he resolved to take his studies more seriously and soon led his class. However, it was not all study. He poured the same zeal and enthusiasm into athletics. In fact, he became such and outstanding athlete that at the age of seventeen he was recognized as one of Hungary’s Junior Gymnastic champions.
At the high school, Stephen had an excellent gym instructor. Professor Denkinger had an exceptional ability to inspire his students. By giving special attention to the more talented, he was able to train many outstanding gymnasts and develop a national reputation for his school. Stephen who seems to have had considerable native ability, benefited by this regime and was eventually able to become an outstanding performer. Apparently this was not without some failures; one of his companions tells us he had a lot of trouble learning to hold his head correctly when performing on the bar. Eventually he succeeded in perfecting his technique and winning many honors in gymnastic.
In fact he succeeded in various competitions outside the high school, in a competition of the National League of Junior Sport Clubs (KOSOSZ) he stood in fourth place among the winners. In the KIZOJZ competitions he won four gold, three silver and one bronze medal. On March 7, 1934, in the gymnastic tournaments at Székesfehérvár, Stephen won several gold medals – on the combined bars, the high bars and in horse racing. With this he was junior champion of the school district of Székesfehérvár. He was proud to win for his school in these regional games.
He became a dedicated member and later on the secretary, of the Solidarity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he was a scout for 8 years where he also became a troop leader. Here, he learned to serve others and to take on responsibility for others as well. He was a boy of many interests, interested in history, literature and learned several languages: French, German, Italian besides Hungarian and Latin.
His many interests were a disadvantage for his scholarly notes. At 16, he realized that if he wished to become a priest, he had to concentrate on his prescribed studies. He did it with such a zeal, that at the end of his high school, he obtained excellent results. In his studies, he was motivated by the desire to do the will of God. As he expressed himself: ‘May my whole life be a ‘Yes to God’. In all his achievements, he was characterized by deep humility. He never boasted about his achievements, he always liked to be self-effacing.
One can read in Stephen’s diary:
‘The joy of the heart is a fragile and delicate flower which can easily be damaged and destroyed by money, poisoned by celebrity, anesthetized by pleasure, but it can bloom to beauty in the noble-spirited, those in whom the only ideal and purpose is the most holy: God the Eternal.’
At this point in life Stephen Kaszap has to deal with the question of his vocation. What will this man of 18 years choose? — This young man who had such broad interests, who graduated with distinction, who was student vice-president in his college, who was the secretary of the Marian Congregation, also a scout master, gymnastics champion, and last but not least, a much-liked and respected member of his community. What kind of ambition animates him? What does he intend to do with his life? The answer is quite surprising! In the opinion of his home room teacher, Stephen considers himself inept for everything. He thinks about the priesthood, but in this case, he feels that he should be a monk, or an elementary school teacher in a remote village. His spiritual director guides him in his dilemma. He makes him realize that he sins against God if he does not choose a career corresponding to his capabilities.
A retreat directed by a Carmelite father will come to his help: ‘Never has a retreat had a greater impact on me,’ – he writes -, ‘than this one. For this I can be thankful to a Carmelite father. My soul was cleansed by a general confession and my will strengthened. I pray to God that he provides more priests like him to my poor country, and that their words will be more than just a cry in the wilderness.’
A book by Bishop Ottokár Prohászka, entitled ‘The Way and The Stages’, also helped Stephen to make his decision. In this book the Bishop talks about his years at the German-Hungarian College of Rome. The College was under the direction of the Jesuit fathers. ‘I read with great interest Pater Ottokár’s accounts,’ he writes. ‘A sort of a beauty and harmony emanates from his words. In the middle of the chapter called ‘Germanicum Hungarium,’ a thought moved me: a Jesuit life would agree with me the most.’
As it was customary in high school, a Jesuit priest led one of the student retreats. A classmate of Stephen’s arranged for P. Kovács to see them at 3 p.m. The meeting took place. Then on June 21, he visited the Jesuit Novitiate, Manresa, and he was admitted. His mother asked: ‘Stephen, do you want to be such a poor priest?’ She had had other dreams for her son. On the other hand, his father admonished him to be steadfast in his prayers.
When the time came to choose a way of life, he decided to become a priest. He entered the Society of Jesus in Budapest.
The complete devotion which characterized his new life was an example to all. His spiritual notes, found after his death, reveal the resoluteness and the burning love with which he pursued the ideal of sanctity. God rewarded such good will with a deeper spirit of charity, humility and zeal for souls. He strengthened these gifts by practicing constant generosity. Daily Communion became source of his spiritual energy and his personal love of Christ was apparent to all as he knelt before the Blessed Sacrament.
His obvious sanctity did not make him any the less friendly and outgoing. So sincere was he that he was truly said to be ‘crystal clear and transparent’.
Stephen offered his life to God as a sacrifice for sinners. His offering was accepted. Soon a tonsil infection led to complications which, at that time (1934-1935) medical science had not the means to cure. Horrible running sores covered his body and he was in continual high fever and severe pain. Such suffering, along with repeated operations, became his lot until death.
In addition there were spiritual trials, chief among which was had to leave the Jesuit Novitiate. Yet he accepted all his sufferings, physical and spiritual alike, with a manly love for the Sacred Heart. His patience and devotion were astounding. He never complained. On the contrary, he thanked God daily, even while he was suffering the most severe pain.
Stephen wrote a spiritual will in which he offered his prayers and his sufferings for the conversion of sinners. Then he revealed the task to which the Lord had called him: To serve, by means of love and suffering, the Center of Love, Your Most Sacred Heart.’
His trials grew worse, until they finally reached their climax on December 17, 1935, when Stephen died a truly heroic death. Because he was unable to speak in his last moment, he scribbled on a piece of paper his farewell words: ‘God be with you! We will meet above! Do not cry, for this is my heavenly Birthday! May the good Lord bless you all!’
He was buried at Székesfehérvár, in the cemetery of Sóstó. In January 1942 Lajos Shvoy, bishop of Székesfehérvár initiated the process of beatification. In November 1942 the remains of Stephen Kaszap were carried in a triumphal procession to his present resting place in the arcades of the Prohászka Memorial Church in Székesfehérvár.
The process of beatification was suspended during World War II between September 1944 and November 1946. Continued in November 1946 the first phase was terminated in April 1947. During the 136 sessions, 102 testimonies were registered. This material was forwarded to Rome in October 1947.
The Congregation of Rites initiated the further processing in April 1948 after having the Hungarian documents officially translated into Italian. The translation, 1000 hand written pages was accepted officially as ‘Copia Publica’ by the Congregation in September 1950.
In 1948, the prefect of the Congregation of Rites, Cardinal Micara made it officially known, that his Holiness Pope Pius XII, had nominated Cardinal Frederick Tadeschini, head of St. Peter’s Basilica, to promote the case of Stephen Kaszap, the Servant of God.
Up to 1954 László Héder O.S.M. was the postulator, after his transfer to Canada, the bishop of Székesfehérvár, Lajos Shvoy asked charge of the Cause the Society of Jesus to take. In March 1966 after due consideration, the Congregation of Rites gave a favorable decretum.
In November 1990 Gyula Szakos, bishop of Székesfehérvár, entrusted the Stephen Kaszap Cause to P. Eugen Bóday SJ. In December 1990 P. Ervin Nemesszeghy SJ, the Hungary Provincial gave his approval.
P. Paul Molinari, postulator of the Society of Jesus, named P. Eugen Bóday as vice postulator the same year. A further process in Hungary started in 1991. The results of this process were forwarded in June 1992 to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which approved the juridical validity of the same March 1993.
On the 16th of December 2006, pope Benedict XVI. announced, that Stephen Kaszap was ‘heroic in Christian virtues’. Since then it is allowed to use the title ‘Venerable Stephen Kaszap’. This also means, that for his beatification process to move on, a well documented miracolous healing through his intercession, is the only one thing needed.
In his native city, Stephen Kaszap was very well known among the youth as scout and athlete. At his funeral a large crowd participated. The master of novices P. János Hemm SJ, in his eulogy said: ‘It is not us who pray for Stephen, but we have to ask Stephen to pray for us’.
At the transfer of his remains an equally large crowd assisted and accompanied him to this new resting place. His graveside is being visited daily by the faithful. As expression of their gratitude for their prayer intercessions and miraculous healings, over 1000 engraved marble plates are placed on the wall, flower tributes abound at all times.
His biography written in 1936 by László Endrődy appeared in 100 000 copies in 10 editions between 1936 and 1944. A novena titled ‘With Love and Suffering’ a pocket book of 180 pages, also written by László Endrődy, had 10 editions, with 300 000 copies. Booklets in several languages were printed. The biography by László Endrődy translated into Spanish had several editions. A short summarized biography, based on Endrődy’s book was compiled by P. Eugene Bóday SJ in 1990 as supplement to the Hungarian ‘Messenger of the Sacred Heart’ (A Szív) periodical. More than 20 000 copies were printed. An additional 10 000 copies were circulated as booklets. The same was translated in 2000 copies. Articles and short essays on his life appeared in more than 10 languages.
A novena for the sick was published in the sixties in New York, several thousand copies in English and 20 000 copies in Hungarian were reprinted in 1992.
During the years several writers paid tribute to Stephen Kaszap. In 1946 Ferenc Sinkó has written: ‘Our travel companion Stephen Kaszap’. László Mécs wrote a poem to Stephan Kaszap, Lajos Bárdos and László Halmos each composed choral pieces in his honor. In 2006 has written Zsolt Barczi an oratorio to memorial of Stephen Kaszap: ‘Window for light’.
Stephen Kaszap became a legend among the Hungarian people, not only because of the intercessions attributed to him (several thousands of letters testify of it), but it was his heroic suffering and discovery of its meaning. It became the source of strength for many people tortured by illnesses or by persecutions. Stephen Kaszap was not the only one who suffered with heroic dedication, but God made him an outstanding example that the faithful learned to love and too trust.
Based on the works of László Endrődy and Eugen Bóday compiled by Géza Bikfalvi
Lord Jesus, you have said, ‘Anyone who wants to follow, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,’ look upon your faithful servant Stephen Kaszap and through his intercession grant us the grace that we ask of you, provided it is for our good. We pray that you grant us the grace to follow his example by serving the Seat of Love, your Most Sacred Heart. Amen
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father..’.
PRAYER FOR STEVE KASZAP’ S BEATIFICATION
Lord Jesus, you have said, whoever wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me, look upon your faithful servant, Stephen Kaszap. The goal of his young life was to renounce everything to serve the Seat of Love, Your Most Sacred Heart, with love and suffering. During his lifetime he gave everything to your Sacred Heart, including his suffering and prayers. Let your Sacred Heart grant him everything, Lord Jesus, that he, we trust, is asking for us in heaven. Grant conversion to sinners, healing to the sick, consolation and relief to the suffering and help to those in need. I pray that you grant me the grace that I need and the favour I ask through his intercession.
I ask you with my whole heart, Lord Jesus, to honour your son, Stephen Kaszap, whom your infinite love chose to serve you and to suffer with you then called him to yourself. Grant that we may soon honour him at our altars as an example of pure innocence, heroic love and faithfulness unto death, a young Hungarian saint dedicated to your Sacred Heart for the glory of the Holy Trinity. Amen.
PRAYER TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Remember, O Virgin Mother, the filial love that Stephen Kaszap professed for you when he urged us to love you and have unconditional trust in you as our Heavenly Mother. We ask you as Mediator of all Blessings to accept, make it your own and bless the case of Stephen Kaszap which we offer you, we dedicate to you and entrust to your motherly protection. Amen.
- Endrődy, László: Un jeune héros le souffrance et de l’amour divin. Etienne Kaszap (1916-1935). Budapest, 1941
- Endrődy, László: Stephen Kaszap. A young Hero of Pain and of Divine Love. Woodstock, 1942
- Endrődy, László: Stefan Kaszap. (In Russian) Budapest, 1943
- Endrődy, László: Stefan Kaszap. Ein junges Menschenleben voll heiligen Tugendtreben. Budapest, 1943
- Endrődy, László: La vida por Christo. Vida de Esteban Kaszap (1916-1935). Barcelona, 1944
- Endrődy, László: ‘Con amor y suffrimiento’. La esperitualidad del servo de Dios Esteban Kaszap. Cádiz, 1946
- Endrődy, László: Quién eres? Recuerdos del servo de Dios Esteban Kaszap. Cádiz, 1946
- Meraud, André: Héros le souffrance et de l’amour. Etienne Kaszap 1916-1935. Toulouse, 1948
- Endrődy, László. Esteban Kaszap. Buenos Aires, 1948
- Korda, Mária: Vom Sportler zum Heiligen. Freiburg/Sch., 1950
- Grüninger, Wunibald: Der Junge mit dem Siegerlorbeer. Das tapfere Leben eines ungarischen Jungen. Würzburg, 1958
- Bóday, Eugen: Le jeunesse Etienne Kaszap, serviteur de Dieu. Montreal, 1994
- Bóday, Eugen: The young Stephen Kaszap, servant of God. Montreal, 1994