November 12, 2015

November 12, 2015 — Memorial of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr

St. Josaphat
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Josaphat, a Catholic of the Ruthenian rite. (Video below.) Born in the then Polish region of Lithuania of Orthodox parents, he became a Catholic and a Ukrainian Basilian monk. Chosen bishop, he worked faithfully for the unity of the Church until he suffered martyrdom at the hands of an angry mob in Russia (1623). As the mob moved in to kill him, Josaphat said:
You people of Vitebsk want to put me to death. You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways and in the marketplace. I am here among you as your shepherd and you ought to know that I should be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of Saint Peter and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff.
Read Pius XI's Encyclical Ecclesiam Dei on St. Josaphat.

St. Josaphat

Josaphat Kuncewitcz was born about the year 1580 at Vladimir, Volhynia, [part of the Polish province of Lithuania at the time] and given the name John at baptism. While being instructed as a child on the sufferings of our Savior, his heart is said to have been wounded by an arrow from the sacred side of the Crucified. In 1604 he joined the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (Basilians), lived as a monk in a very mortified life, went barefoot even in winter, refrained from the use of wine and flesh-meat, and always wore a penitential garb. In 1614 he was appointed archimandrite of Vilna, Russia and four years later archbishop of Polotzk; in this position he worked untiringly for Church reunion. He was a great friend of the poor, once even pledged his archepiscopal omophorion (pallium) to support a poor widow. The foes of union decided to assassinate him. In a sermon, he himself spoke of his death as imminent. When he visited Vitebsk (now in Russia), his enemies attacked his lodging and murdered a number of his companions. Meekly the man of God hastened toward the mob and, full of love, cried, "My children, what are you doing? If you have something against me, see, here I am." With furious cries of "Kill the papist!", they rushed upon him with gun and sword. Josaphat's body was thrown into the river but emerged, surrounded by rays of light, and was recovered. His murderers, when sentenced to death, repented their crime and became Catholics.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Prayer to St. Josaphat

O Saint Josaphat, wonderful Saint and heroic martyr for the union of our Church with the Vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome. Thou are glorious on account of thy zeal in the propagation of the true Catholic faith among our people. Thou art wonderful because of thy heroic martyrdom for the unity of faith of our people with the Holy See of Rome, the true center of orthodox Catholicism.

Thou art admirable on account of thy sublime virtues with which thou has adorned thy soul. We admire thy ardent love for Jesus and Mary and thy allegiance to the Vicar of Christ. Thou art a sublime example of all virtues for the people of whom thou were born. Since thou art so powerful with God as thy miracles prove, I ask thee to obtain for me from Jesus and Mary a strong attachment to the Catholic faith and my beautiful Eastern Rite which I shall never betray nor abandon. Obtain also the grace of indefatigable zeal that I may labor for the reunion of my separated Eastern Brethren.

O glorious martyr of our Catholic Church, remember the nation of which thou wert a son, look at our people and pray to God for future reunion of all Ukrainians under one fold and one shepherd. May the day come soon in which all thy Brethren will assemble before thy holy relics in a free and independent Ukraine to give thanks to God for the union of all Ukrainians with the Holy See. Amen.

Excerpted from the Ukrainian Rite prayer book, My Divine Friend, Rev. Michael Schudlo.

Collect Prayer

Stir up in your Church, we pray, O Lord, the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat as he laid down his life for the sheep, so that through his intercession we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit and not be afraid to lay down our life for others. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Josaphat, Martyr for Christian Unity

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