Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Friday, November 12, 2010

St. Jozofat Kuncewicz - Saint of True Christian Unity

" In order that this unity and concord might be perpetuated forever, God, in His supreme providence consecrated it, so to speak, by the seal of sanctity and of martyrdom. The great privilege of being both a saint and martyr belongs to Josaphat, Archbishop of Polotsk, of the Eastern Slavic Rite, who is rightly looked upon as the glory and support of the Eastern Slavs. Certainly it would be difficult to discover another man who has brought greater luster to his people or who has done more for their eternal welfare than he, their pastor and apostle. This is particularly evidenced by the fact that he shed his very blood in order to preserve the unity of Holy Church.
On the occasion of the Third Centenary of his glorious martyrdom which is at hand, it gives Us great pleasure to call again to your memory the name of this hero in order that Our Lord, in answer to the prayers of his many fervent children, "may awaken in His Church that spirit which filled the blessed martyr and bishop Josaphat, who gave his life for his sheep." (Office of St. Josaphat) As zeal for the unity of the Church increases among the faithful, so in the same ratio the work which he had so much at heart will increase, until the time shall come when the promise of Christ, as well as the desire of all His Saints, will be fulfilled, and there will be "one fold and one shepherd." (John x, 16)
Our Saint was born of schismatic parents but was baptized validly and received the name of John. From his earliest years he lived a saintly life. Although he was much impressed by the splendors of the Slavic liturgy, he always sought therein first and foremost the truth and glory of God. Because of this, and not because he was impressed by arguments, even as a child he turned towards communion with the Ecumenical, that is, the Catholic Church. Of this Church he always considered himself a member because of the valid baptism which he had received. What is more, he felt himself called by a special Providence to re-establish everywhere the holy unity of the Church. He was quick to realize that the cause of unity would be greatly served by the return to the Catholic Church of those who followed the Eastern Slavic Rite and of the Basilian monks. To further this end he himself in 1604 joined the Monks of St. Basil, and changed his name from John to that of Josaphat. As a monk, he consecrated himself body and soul to the practice of every virtue, and particularly to the virtues of mercy and penance. At all times he manifested a truly singular love for the Cross, a love which he had learned in his childhood by constant meditation on Jesus Crucified.
The Metropolitan of Kiev, Joseph Velamin Rutsky, who was also archimandrite of this monastery, tells us that Josaphat "in a short time made such progress in the monastic life that he could have become the master of the other monks." Almost immediately after his ordination, Josaphat found himself elected archimandrite and head of the monastery. In the government of the community he strove not only to protect and to defend the temporalities of the monastery and of the church attached to it against the assaults which were being made against them, but also, having found out that these holy places had been practically abandoned by the faithful, did all within his power to have the Christian people frequent them once again. At the same time, having greatly at heart the reunion of his compatriots with the Chair of Peter, he sought to discover arguments which would help to promote and to make secure this union. For this reason he studied principally the liturgical books which the Orientals and even the Schismatics use, according to the regulations laid down by the Holy Fathers of the Church.
Having thus prepared himself well, he began firmly but with kindness to plead the cause of the restoration of unity. His success was immediate, so much so that even his adversaries bestowed upon him the title "winner of souls." Marvelous in truth was the number of souls which he led back to the unity of the Fold of Jesus Christ, made up of all classes, peasants, merchants, nobles, prefects, and governors of provinces-a fact which is narrated by Sokolinski of Polotsk, by Tyszhkievicz of Novogrodek, and by Mieleczko of Smolensk. After he was appointed bishop of Polotsk he extended greatly the field of his apostolate, an apostolate which could not but bring about extraordinary results due to the example which he gave of a life of inviolate chastity, poverty, and frugality joined with such openhandedness toward the poor that he even went to the length of pawning his own omophorion in order to care for their needs. . . . .
As a holy bishop, he strove zealously, both by his writings and his sermons, to make known the truth at all times. In addition to his preaching he published a number of volumes written in a popular style on such subjects as the primacy of Peter, the baptism of St. Vladimir, an apology of Catholic unity, a catechism which followed the methods of St. Peter Canisius, and many other similar works. Furthermore, he occupied himself much in exhorting both the secular and regular clergy to a higher appreciation of their holy office. With their zealous and sincere co-operation, which he had inspired, he succeeded in having the people, after they had been instructed in Christian doctrine and nourished by the preaching of the word of God in a way adapted to their peculiar needs, frequent the Sacraments and the functions of the sacred liturgy, with the result that they, too, began to adopt a way of life more and more conformable to their beliefs. Thus, having first of all succeeded in spreading about widely the spirit of God, St. Josaphat was in a position to make secure the work for Christian unity to which he had dedicated his life. This work of consolidation, even of consecration, he achieved more by his martyrdom than by any other act, an ending to his life which he faced with enthusiasm and admirable greatness of soul.
Great indeed were the fruits of this glorious martyrdom, especially among the Ruthenian bishops who knew how to draw from his death a living example of firmness and courage, as they themselves testified two months later in a letter sent to the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda: "We too are ready, as one of our number has already done, to offer our life's blood for the Catholic religion." As a result of and almost immediately after this martyrdom, a great number of people, among whom were the very murderers of the Saint, returned to the bosom of the unity of the Church of Christ. "
- Ecclesiam Dei
Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on St. Josaphat promulgated on 12 November 1923

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