Thought for the Day – 12 November – The Memorial of St Josaphat Kuncewicz (1584-1623) Martyr of Holy Unity
As deacon, priest and bishop, St Josaphat was distinguished by his extraordinary zeal in performing the Church services and by extraordinary devotion during the Divine Liturgy. Not only in the church did he preach and hear confessions but likewise in the fields, hospitals, prisons and even on his personal journeys. This zeal, united with his kindness for the poor, won great numbers of Orthodox Ruthenians for the Catholic faith and Catholic unity. Among his converts were included many important personages such as Ignatius, former Patriarch of Moscow and Emmanuel Cantacuzenus, who belonged to the imperial family of the Byzantine Emperor Palaeologus. His favourite devotional exercise was to make prostrations in which the head touches the ground, saying, the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
When Archbishop St Josaphat went to Vitebsk to calm the tumult in 1623, he knew well that his hour had come. “Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the union and obedience to the Apostolic See”, he had prayed and his prayer was answered on 12 November as an enraged mob cruelly butchered him and profaned his body. He was in his 44th year.
After five days his mortal remains were recovered from the waters of a river and taken to Polotsk to be exposed to the veneration of the faithful. For nine days they constantly emitted a fragrance of roses and lilies and a councillor of the city abandoned the schism merely at the sight of the Saint’s beautiful countenance. Many of the murderers struck their breasts and did likewise. The martyr had gone gladly to his death, offering his life that the schism might end; he had said as much beforehand and amongst the many miracles consequent to his murder was the conversion of his assassins. Four years later the author of the troubles, the dissident bishop Meletius Smotrytsky, was himself struck with remorse and consecrated his life to penance, prayer and the defence of the Union. Such changes of heart are indeed the greatest of miracles, won by the sanctity of the true servants of God.
Some years after St Josaphat’s martyrdom his body was found to be incorrupt, though the clothing had rotted away. Again in 1637 and 1767 it was found to be still white and supple. It was eventually taken to the Basilica of St Peter in Rome where it reposes today.
Today, let us offer our prayers, our devotions, our Sunday Mass for unity between ourselves and most especially our Orthodox brethren, our closest family in Christ. St Josaphat, please pray with us and for us all!
One Minute Reflection – 12 November – The Memorial of St Josaphat Kuncewicz (1584-1623)
Why, then, does one of you make himself judge over his brother and why does another among you despise his brother? All of us will have to stand in front of the judgement-seat of God…… Let us each stop passing judgement, therefore, on one another and decide instead, that none of us will place obstacles in any brother’s way, or anything that can bring him down…Romans 10,13
REFLECTION – “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 a shepherd and you ought to know that I would be happy to give my life for you.”…St Josaphat
PRAYER – O Lord our God, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. That by our love, our brothers in faith may be one. St Josaphat you fought and struggled to unite the Church and by your efforts achieved the crown of martyrdom, please pray for our world, for a one united faith. Amen
Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) Doctor of the Church
Jesus, Joy of loving hearts,
You Fount of life, You Light of men,
from the best bliss that earth imparts,
we turn unfilled to You again.
We taste You, O You living Bread,
and long to feast upon You still;
we drink of You, the Fountain-head,
and thirst our souls from You to fill.
O Jesus, ever with us stay;
make all our moments calm and bright!
chase the dark night of sin away,
shed o’er the world Your holy light.
Saint of the Day – 12 November – St Josaphat Kuncewicz O.S.B.M. (1580-1623) Archbishop and Martyr. Born 1580 at Volodymyr, Lithuania (modern Ukraine) as John Kunsevyc – St Josaphat was struck in the head with a halberd, shot and beaten with staves on 12 November 1623 at Vitebsk, Belarus. His body thrown into the Dvina River but later recovered and buried at Biala, Poland. His body was found incorrupt five years after his death. He was Beatified on 16 May 1643 by Pope Urban VIII and Canonised on 29 June 1867 by Pope Blessed Pius IX. St Josaphat, a contemporary of St Francis de Sales and St Vincent de Paul was the first Eastern saint canonised by Rome. Patronages – Ukraine, Edmonton, Alberta, eparchy of, Toronto, Ontario, eparchy of. Attributes – • chalice,• crown,• winged deacon.
Josaphat Kuncewicz was born of noble Catholic parents at Vladimir in Volhynia. When a child, as he was listening to his mother telling him about the Passion of Christ, a dart issued from the image of Jesus Crucified and wounded him in the heart. Set on fire with the love of God, he began to devote himself with such zeal to prayer and other works of piety, that he was the admiration and the model of his older companions. At the age of twenty he became a monk under the Rule of St. Basil and made wonderful progress in evangelical perfection. He went barefoot even in the severe winter of that country; he never ate meat, drank wine only when obliged by obedience and wore a rough hair-shirt until his death. The flower of his chastity, which he had vowed in early youth to the Virgin Mother of God, he preserved unspotted. He soon became so renowned for virtue and learning, that in spite of his youth he was made superior of the monastery of Byten; soon afterwards he became Archimandrite of Vilna; and lastly, much against his will, but to the great joy of Catholics, he was chosen Archbishop of Polotsk.
Although a Bishop, he relaxed nothing of his former manner of life and had nothing so much at heart as the divine service and the salvation of the sheep entrusted to him. He energetically defended the Catholic Faith and Unity and laboured to bring back schismatics and heretics to communion with the See of Saint Peter. He never ceased to defend the Sovereign Pontiff, both by preaching and by writings full of piety and learning, against the shameless calumnies and errors of the wicked. He vindicated episcopal rights and restored ecclesiastical possessions which had been seized by laymen. Incredible was the number of heretics he won back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church; and the words of the Popes bear witness how greatly he promoted the union of the Greek schismatic with the true Latin Church. His revenues were entirely expended in restoring the beauty of God’s house, in building dwellings for consecrated virgins and in other pious works. So bountiful was he to the poor, that, on one occasion, having nothing wherewith to supply the needs of a certain widow, he ordered his Omophorion, or episcopal pallium, to be pawned.
The great progress made by the Catholic Faith so stirred up the hatred of wicked men against the soldier of Christ, that they determined to put him to death. He knew what was threatening him and foretold it when preaching to the people. As he was making his pastoral visitation at Vitebsk, the murderers broke into his house, striking and wounding all whom they found. St Josaphat meekly went to meet them and accosted them kindly, saying: “My little children, why do you strike my servants? If you have any complaint against me, here I am.” Thereupon they rushed at him, overwhelmed him with blows, pierced him with their spears and at length killed him with an axe and threw his body into the river. This took place on the 12 November 1623, in the 43rd year of his age. His body, surrounded with a miraculous light, was rescued from the waters.
The martyr’s blood won a blessing first of all for his murderers-for being condemned to death, they nearly all abjured their schism and repented of their crime. As the death of this great Bishop was followed by many miracles, Pope Urban VIII granted him the honour of beatification. On June 29th, 1867, when celebrating the centenary of the Princes of the Apostles, Pope Pius IX, in the Vatican Basilica, in the presence of the College of Cardinals and of about 500 Patriarchs, Metropolitans and Bishops of every Uniate Rite, assembled from all parts of the world, solemnly enrolled among the Saints this great defender of the Church’s Unity, who was the first of the Oriental Rites to be thus honoured. Pope Leo XIII extended his Mass and Office to the universal Church.
St Josaphat will always be the patron and model of future apostles for the conversion of Russia and the whole Greco-Slavonic world. By his birth, education and studies, by the beauty of his piety and all his habits of life, he resembled far more the Russian monks of later times than the Latin prelates of his own time. He always desired the ancient liturgy of his Rite to be preserved entire and even to his last breath he carried it out lovingly, without the least alteration or diminution, just as the first apostles of the Christian Faith had brought it from Constantinople to Kiev. May prejudices born of ignorance be someday obliterated and then, despised though his name now is in Russia, St Josaphat will soon be known and loved and invoked by the Russians themselves. Below is the The Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee.
(The Bull of Pius IX declaring Josaphat Kuntsevych a Saint: 29/6/1867)
“Pius, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God . . . For the honoir of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the enhancement of the Catholic Faith and for the increase and beauty of the Christian religion, by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and by our own power, after mature deliberation and frequent invocation of God’s help and following the advice of our worthy brothers of the Holy Roman Church, the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops. We declare the said Blessed Josaphat, Archbishop of Polotsk, of the Eastern Rite of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, a SAINT and place him on the list of the holy martyrs….”
St Josaphat Kuncewicz (Memorial) – https://gloria.tv/video/Q6D1Vsk7HYFm6p8Z8XGDsT1kJ
All Dominican Saints
St Astricus of Ungarn
St Cummian Fada
St Cunibert of Cologne
St Emilian Cucullatus
St Evodius of Le Puy
St Hesychius of Vienne
Bl John Cini della Pace
Bl José Medes Ferrís
St Lebuin of Deventer
St Livinus of Alost
St Machar of Aberdeen
St Margarito Flores-García
St Nilus the Elder
St Paternus of Sens
St Renatus of Angers
St Rufus of Avignon
Bl Ursula Medes Ferris
St Ymar of Reculver
Five Polish Brothers – martyrs: They weren’t Polish and they wern’t related, but were instead five Italian Benedictine monks who worked with Saint Adalbert of Prague as missionaries to the Slavs and were martyred together. They were – Benedict, Christinus, Isaac, John and Matthew. Born in Italy. They were martyred in 1005 at the Benedictine monastery near Gnesen, Poland and Canonised by Pope Julius II. http://catholicsaints.info/five-polish-brothers/