Saint Of The Day For November 12: Saint Josaphat
Saint Josaphat Origins: Born around 1580 into a Ukrainian noble family, he was given the name John. He was educated in the Christian faith according to the Orthodox tradition and studied in Vilna (today Vilnius), Lithuania, where he received a profound spiritual formation.
He lived through the turbulent period of the Union of Brest (1596), when the bishops of the Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv proclaimed unity with the Church of Rome while maintaining their Byzantine rite.
Not everyone shared this choice, which was the cause of tension and clashes.
In 1604, John entered the Order of St Basil, in the Holy Trinity monastery in Vilna, taking the name Josaphat.
He is fascinated by the Fathers of the Church, both of the West and the East, and considers their writings fundamental to reconstituting the unity of the Christian community.
In 1609, he was ordained a priest, gaining acclaim everywhere for his oratorical skills.
His fame soon spread and he was appointed Archimandrite of Vilna.
On 12 November 1617, Metropolitan Velamin, who knew his intellectual and spiritual gifts, consecrated him as bishop, appointing him coadjutor to the 90-year-old bishop of Polotzk, whom he then succeeded.
Josaphat set his pastoral action on caring for the poor, to whom he distributed food from the bishop’s curia.
He periodically visited his priests to encourage and support them in their ministry.
He organised an annual synod with his priests as an opportunity for pastoral discussion and fraternal encounter.
He makes every effort to make people love the Church and the Pope.
His pastoral commitment – supported by an intense spiritual life and accompanied by wise catechesis – soon arouses envy and jealousy from those who do not share his choice for union with the Bishop of Rome.
While on a pastoral visit to Vitebsk, a group of troublemakers burst into the bishop’s palace, indiscriminately injuring and killing those they encounter.
Josaphat, who finds himself re-entering the bishop’s palace at the very time of the raid, makes his way to them, saying: ‘My children, why do you hit those in my house? If you have anything against me, here I am”.
He is killed and his body thrown into the river Dzwina (Daugava): it is 12 November 1623.
Josaphat died at only 43 years of age, six years after his episcopal ordination.
St Josaphat: A seed that bears fruit
The courage he showed in facing even death aroused admiration and even the repentance of his murderers, who converted.
Many miracles were attributed to the intercession of Saint Josaphat.
On 16 May 1643, Pope Urban VIII proclaimed him Blessed.
Just over two centuries later, on 29 June 1867, on the 18th centenary of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, he was canonised by Pius IX.
The martyr’s body, preserved incorrupt and guarded by the religious family of St Basil, was transferred to Austria in 1916 and buried in St Barbara’s Church in Vienna.
Finally, after the last world war, it was taken to Rome where, at the behest of Pope John XXIII, it rests in St Peter’s Basilica, under the altar of St Basil the Great.