November 14, 2017: ST. JOSAPHAT
November 14, 2017: ST. JOSAPHAT, BISHOP AND MARTYR
The Lord settled with him a covenant of peace, and made him a Chief, that he may have the honor of Priesthood for ever.
Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, in thy Church the Spirit wherewith the blessed Josaphat thy Martyr and Pontiff was filled, when he laid down his life for the sheep: that by this intercession we too may be stirred and strengthened by the same Spirit and not fear to give our lives for our brethren. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Let us read the liturgical Legend for this day.
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 form 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 Polock.
In this dignity 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 Catholic faith and unity, and labored to the utmost of his power to bring back schismatics and heretics to communion with the See of blessed Peter. The Sovereign Pontiff and the plenitude of his power he never ceased to defend, both by preaching, and by writings full of piety and learning, against the most 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 Mother Church; and the words of the Popes bear witness how greatly he promoted the union of the Greek and Latin churches. 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. 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. Hereupon they rushed on him, overwhelmed him with blows, pierced him with their spears, and at length dispatched him with an axe and threw his body into the river. This took place on the twelfth of November 1623, in the forty-third 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 honors of beatification. On the third of the Calends of July, 1867, when celebrating the centenary of the Princes of the Apostles, Pius IX in the Vatican basilica, in presence of the College of Cardinals, and of about five hundred Patriarchs, Metropolitans, and Bishops of every 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 Oriental to be thus honored. Pope Leo XIII extended his Mass and Office to the universal Church.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903.
St. Josaphat, pray for us.