The Seminar in Riga
As it is tradition, after our Easter holidays, our seminar has made a short pilgrimage to Riga. The main objective was to visit the tomb of Saint Meinardo, our patron, considered the first evangelizer of Livonia (now part of Latvia and Estonia). We were able to learn more about St. Meinardo and the history of the first evangelization of our lands. The possibility of praying next to his tomb and asking for his intercession, grace to bring the Good News to these peoples, was one of the highlights of our trip.
Taking advantage of the fact that we were in Latvia, we visited the Sanctuary of Aglona, one of the most important places of worship of the Virgin Mary in the Baltic. It was also the time for each of us to ask for a special grace from Mary.
We did not miss a detailed visit of the most interesting places of the capital of Latvia and also to taste the traditional food of Latvia.
Meinhard or Meinardo (Germany, 1134 – Riga, October 11, 1196), was the first bishop of Livonia (formerly the Baltic region which included present-day Latvia and southern Estonia), arrived from the north of Germany, then land border monasteries, famous for art of memory (the monks knew the Scripture by heart).
No news of his youth is heard. He was an Augustinian monk of the Congregation of the Canons Lateran Regents, and was in a convent near Segeberg in Holstein. Maybe stimulated by the tales of merchants of Lübeck, who often went between the pagan towns from Livonia (Livoni, Curi, Latgalians and Semigalians) to buy beautiful skins, Meinardo felt called to go and preach the Gospel among the pagan peoples still. He then embarked at Lübeck as chaplain on a freighter direct to the Gulf of Riga. Having arrived at the port, met with the Polish prince Wladimiro of Polotzk and asked for permission to announce the Gospel in the region.
(Estonians already had a first contact with Christianity through the city of Novgorod (Russia) and Visby, on the island of Gotland (Sweden) again because of trade. Here gathered Christian communities founded by Byzantium and Rome. Pope Alexander III in a letter dated 17 September 1171 speaks of Fulco, “bishop of the Estonians” and Nicola, an Estonian monk. Other attempts at a peaceful mission were carried out by the archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen.) Around 1184 began the construction of the first church of Livonia, in Ikšķile, (Uxkull) on the right bank of the Daugava, twenty miles east of the line, the Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built of stone and defended by a fortress to protect it from predators. The Livonians tried to destroy the church by throwing it with ropes, but they saw that the walls were too strong for their customs. Meinardo in 1186 returned to Germany to make a report of his apostolic work Archbishop Hartwig II of Bremen, who consecrated him bishop of Livonia. At the request of Hartwig himself, the pope Clement III (+ 1191) recognized, with a brief Apostolic of 25 Sept. of 1188, the bishopric of Ikšķile Bremen.
He lost the support of Bishop Hartwig, who had been expelled from Bremen. Meinardo, already entered in years, and often attacked by the pagans, felt the enormous weight of the mission that had carried out. Then he went directly to the Pope asking for help and April 27, 1191 Pope Celestine III allowed all´episcopus Livoniae gentis to seek help in Germany. But after the first enthusiasm, the Livonians had begun to look with suspicion at the German preachers, so Meinardo seeing the serious situation that was about to sink the young church of Livonia, sent directly to Rome in search of a new aid of his collaborator, the Cistercian monk Teodorico von Treyden. Celestino III granted an indulgence to all who were ready to go and give support to the church of Livonia. Meinardo died, however, while waiting for help, with a deep sadness for the apparent failure of his work, on 11 October (according to other sources on 12 April or 14 August) 1196.
In 1201 the diocese was transferred to the city of Riga near the new foundation. Venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church. His relics were transferred in 1226 by Alberto Vescovo of the cathedral Buxthoeven in Riga, now the Lutheran cathedral. The Roman Martyrology sets the liturgical memory on 11 October “in Riga on the Baltic Sea, the commemoration of St. Meinardo, bishop, who, at first, was a monk in Germany, already entered into years, dedicated to evangelize the people of Latvia; In Üksküll built the church, and was ordained Bishop, effectively laid the foundations of the Christian faith in this region. Pope John Paul II, on 8 September 1993 during the apostolic visit to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, restored officially the cult of the holy pro-bishop.