Saint of the Day – 20 October – Blessed James Strepar OFM (c 1340-1409) Archbishop, Religious Priest of the Order of Friars Minor, Missionary, Apostle of the Holy Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Rosary. He founded Churches, Monateries, Schools, Hospitals, apostolates of Eucharistic Adoration and promoted the prayer of the Holy Rosary, apostle of the poor and needy. He was given the title of “Protector of the Kingdom, Defender and Guardian of the Homeland” – born as Jakub Strzemię in c 1350 in Galacia, Poland and died on 1 June 1411 (aged 69) at Lviv, Poland (in modern Ukraine) of natural causes. Patronages – Archdiocese of Lviv, Diocese of Zamość-Lubaczów, against headaches and on 16 March 1910, St Pius X proclaimed Blessed James, along with St Anthony of Padua, the Patrons of the Conventual Franciscan Order of Krakow Province. He is also known as Jakob/James Strepa or Strzemie. He served as the Archbishop of Halicz from 1392 until his death, when the Archdiocese was incorporated into that of the Archdiocese of Lviv. He was an indefatigable Apostle of Poland and Russia during the fourteenth century, who, rich by birth, put into practice, the invitation addressed by Jesus to the rich young man of the Gospels – to leave all his possessions and follow Him. His body is incorrupt.
James was born in the Diocese of Krakow, to a Polish noble family, around the year 1340. He was very young when, fascinated by and, devoted to Saint Francis of Assisi and by the Franciscan ideal, he entered a convent of Friars Minor.
He joined the Society of Pilgrim Friars, made up of both Franciscans and Dominicans and, with a strong missionary yearning, set Ukraine as his goal. He was elected Superior of the convent of Lviv (a city founded around 1250) in a troubled moment in the ecclesiastical history of that city. There were in fact, contrasts between the Diocesan clergy and the religious and between Catholics and Orthodox. Furthermore, holding the position of inquisitor of the faith in Ruthenia, for ten years his apostolate was tireless.
At the height of his maturity, a new great mission appeared to him – to preach the Word of Christ in Russia. Such was his success, that he was appointed Vicar General and then Bishop of Halicz, a bishopric that was later transferred to Leopoli. Fr James was fifty-two years old.
Tirelessly, the new Bishop employed all his strength, with an extraordinary commitment, for the good of the Diocese. He built Churches in the most remote places and erected Parishes, entrusting them to Priests of proven virtues, who sometimes came especially from Poland.
Attentive to the needs of the poor and places of worship, he donated the income of the Bishopric to these purposes. He engaged in the construction of Monasteries, schools and hospitals.
On foot, without any honour, in the simple Franciscan habit, he visited every community. He was an example of humility, accompanying the active apostolate with personal penances. In every action he was driven by a great interior faith, transmitting his devotions to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady. He instituted Perpetual Adoration and depicted the Virgin in the bishop’s coat of arms, inviting people to recite the Rosary everyday. So much zeal bore the fruits of a widespread religious awakening of the people. The Friar Bishop maintained unchanged, his missionary character towards atheists and towards the Orthodox, strongly desiring the unity of Christians while, due to his high moral authority, he was appointed senator of the Council of the Fatherland. In this capacity he gave practical suggestions for the administration of the city, one day finding himself facing even the incursions of the barbarians.
He died on 20 October 1409, receiving the title of “Protector of the Kingdom, Defender and Guardian of the Homeland” for his exceptional merits, including civil ones. Such was he considered by all.
His body, with the Habit and the Bishop’s insignia, was buried in the Church of the Franciscans. The fame of holiness was vast, pilgrimages to his tomb continued endlessly, while miracles occurred through his intercession. Ten years after his death, the body was exhumed and appeared uncorrupted. The cult, widespread in Poland, Lithuania and Russia, was confirmed by Pope Pius VI on 11 September 1791.
Today his relics are venerated in the Cathedral of Lviv (L’viv), the important Ukrainian city rich in history and culture, which has among it’s fathers the noble Friar who came from Poland.
Blessed James encouraged the faithful to donate books, liturgical garments, kitchenware to Monasteries. In everyday life, Bishop James was noted for his simplicity and Franciscan poverty – King Władysław II Jagiełło donated to James an estate in the centre of Lviv but he decided to live in a modest wooden house wearing a Franciscan habit. Bl James was sensitive to the needs of the poor and sick – he donated his episcopal income to the hospital of the Holy Spirit and to a shelter for the poor, sick and pilgrims. In his will he asked to give a mitre, silver ecclesiatical vessels, a Franciscan habit, books and all his belongings to the poor and use them for acts of mercy and for the celebration of Masses for his soul.
that with the apostolic labours of Bishop Blessed James Strepar
you have placed the seeds of faith in the Church of Poland and Russia,
through his intercession grant us to live
our Christian vocation in an authentic way .
Through Christ our Lord. Amen