We should never forget that saints are being made every day. Devout Christians are living holy lives, providing others with examples of Christian love and sacrifice. Often, it is one important decision in one moment that causes a person to rise to such sanctity, and it is only in retrospect that we learn about and come to revere these holy ones. St. Gorazd, bishop of the city of Prague, Czechoslavakia during World War II was such man. His story is told in Champions of the Church, Volume Two by Dennis Michelis:
In the spring of 1942, Czechoslovakia and most countries of continental Europe were oppressed by the occupation… In Prague, the capital, people endured as best as they could under the Nazi boot. Food and consumer goods were scarce, and dispirited and shabbily dressed people went about their daily tasks. On the morning of May 29, 1942 Reinhard Heydrich was driving his open Mercedes car from his country villa to the castle in Prague, which was Gestapo headquarters… It was he who had conceived of human extermination in gas-chambers, and he was acting as chief of the security police and governor of the German-occupied country. The bloody reign of this diabolical man would soon come to a violent end. Two Czechoslovak partisans who had parachuted from a British plane, tossed a bomb at the passing car. The car was destroyed and “Hangman Heydrich” was critically injured [and] died of his wounds on June fourth.
The men who tossed the bomb at the passing vehicle escaped capture. Eventually, they found refuge in the Orthodox church of Saints Cyril and Methodios. This church was under the jurisdiction of Bishop Gorazd… Many days later, the Nazis discovered the hideout of the paratroopers, surrounded it with troops, and, after a savage two day battle, one hundred-and-twenty Czech resistance fighters were killed.
Nazi fury did not stop there. Not content with the human carnage they had already committed, they were now determined to hunt down and kill many uninvolved Orthodox Christians as well. Bishop Gorazd heard of the scheme and on June 19, 1942, wrote to the new Nazi governor announcing that he would offer himself in lieu of his Orthodox flock. He was arrested a few days later. He was beaten, tortured, and tried on September 4, 1942 and was executed by a Nazi firing squad.
In the over four decades since his tragic death, the memory of this magnanimous, truly loving Orthodox shepherd became more and more alive. As a result, on September 6, 1987, in the cathedral church of Saint Gorazd in Olomouc, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Dorotheos of Czechoslovakia together with many other bishops, formally canonized the great martyr.
St. Gorazd had come a long way from being a worthy priest to an inspiring and loving shepherd of his Church and people who sacrificed his life to save his persecuted flock. May St. Gorazd and all the saints pray for us.