Saints Cyril and Methodius

14 February

Cyril and Methodius. . . Unusual names! Brave men! Great Saints! St. John Paul ll called them “Apostles of the Slavs” and declared them Co-Patrons of Europe.

They were brothers, born in the 9th century in Thessaloniki. They were christened Constantine and Michael but they changed their names to Cyril and Methodius when later on in life they adopted the monastic life. Their mother was Bulgarian and their father was Greek. They were brought up in a well-known Christian family. They grew up fluent not only in Greek but also in the Slavic language, as many Slavs had settled in Thessaloniki at the time.

Michael became an important civil  official but then retired to a Greek monastery where he became an abbot, adopting the name Methodius. Constantine grew up to be a scholar, becoming known as “the Philosopher” in Constantinople.

Constantine and Methodius were requested to become missionaries among the people of what we now know as the Ukraine. Later the Moravian Prince Ratislav requested the Byzantine Emperor for missionaries who knew the Slavic language to combat the influence of the German missionaries in Moravia. Constantine and Methodius were the obvious choice. When they arrived in Moravia, Constantine started to translate the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Also, he devised what is known as the Glagolitic alphabet, which later developed into the Cyrillic alphabet ( named after the name Cyril that he adopted later.) A derivation of this alphabet is still used by a number of Slavic countries, including Russia. The German Church authority in Moravia opposed this because it meant losing their power and control in the Moravian community.

Constantine and Methodius were heavily and publicly criticized on all fronts. As they were not bishops they could not ordain the candidates they had prepared for the priesthood so they had to travel to Rome to have their candidates ordained. The brothers found that the German criticism had preceded them there. However the Pope saw the importance of the use of the Slavic Language in Church services and for the liturgy in Eastern countries and he approved it.

Constantine never returned to Moravia. He became seriously ill. He joined a monastic order, changing his name to Cyril and died soon after on the 14th February 869.

Methodius was given permission by the Pope to continue saying Mass and baptizing in the Slavonic language but he could not return to Moravia because of great political upheaval there. Eventually he was consecrated bishop and was given authority over Serbo-Croatian, Slovene and Moravian Territory. The criticism of the German Bishops never ceased. It developed into persecution to the extent that he was imprisoned in a monastery. When the Germans had to recognize Moravian independence, to ’pacify’ the Germans the Pope ordered Methodius to stop celebrating the liturgy in the Slavonic language. Methodius was again called to Rome accused of not abiding by the Pope’s ruling.  Once in Rome, he explained how celebrating the Liturgy in the people’s own language brought meaning to their life. Far from condemning him the Pope gave him permission to continue celebrating the Liturgy in the Slavic language and made him head of the Church hierarchy in Moravia.

In spite of the fact that criticism never ceased to surround him, Methodius never lost heart. It is believed that he translated most of the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers into Slavic language. He died on April 6, 884.

We have only had this privilege since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) when in 1962 St. John XXIII called more than 2,000 bishops from all over the world to assemble at St. Peter’s in Rome, to discuss practices that the Church needed to consider, including the use of a native language in the liturgy. Until then, all liturgy celebrations were carried out in Latin.

As parents and guardians we might not remember the dramatic change in the liturgy of the time.

  • Encourage the children to ask grandparents /older relatives what this change meant for them. What changed?

Pope Francis said using “the language of the congregation allowed the faithful to understand and be encouraged by the Word of God “ and “connect it to their lives”.

  • Let us appreciate the fact that we can understand all Liturgy in our own language. Encourage the children to  pronounce  ALOUD the responses and to join in the liturgical hymns at Mass.

Although Cyril and Methodius were harshly criticized for adopting the natural language of the countries in Eastern Europe instead of the Greek and Latin used in Western Europe, they did not give up.

Criticism is difficult to deal with. It is difficult for adults , even more so for children for whom the tendency to be egocentric is stronger.

As parents/guardians, it is of the utmost importance to watch the language we use when we criticize our children. Let us make an effort to remain positive and to focus on using encouraging words.

Look for an opportunity to engage the children into talking about ~ what they feel when they are criticized ~ what upsets them most ~ whether they get discouraged.

Discuss ways how to deal with criticism. Listen to their views guiding them to positive outcomes.

Try to reach the point to adopt criticism  that can help us to improve, when it comes from somebody they trust or has to be ignored because it is not meant to help us become better persons.>

Family Prayer Time:

  • Make a statement: Different people from different countries, while they believe in God, pray in their own language and adore Him in different ways.
  • Dedicate a Family Prayer Time to be the children’s expression of Faith in their own language.
  • Start them off with “I believe in One God” and continue with statements adapted from the Apostles Creed, while the children respond “I believe.”

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.