Saint Josaphat Kuncevyc (1580-1623), bishop of the Eastern Rite, and martyr to Church unity as he died working to bring the Orthodox Church into union with Rome.
Born Joseph Kuncevyc in Vladimir, a city of ancient Poland, today’s future saint was raised in a family of honorable Christians of the Greco-Slavic rite. Under the direction of his mother, he matured in the presence of the Lord, and his heart was drawn to service of his Creator. From early age, he distanced himself from the frivolous pursuits of childhood, avoiding games and play, and instead spending his time in quiet contemplation and prayer. He memorized the Divine Office while still in primary school, reciting large portions of it from memory each day. Joseph also excelled at his studies, earning the respect of peers and teachers for his mastery of the sacred and divine
Despite his good works, the schism between the unionists and the separists had increased, and had become to grow bloody. Riots were occurring, with the King of Poland declaring Josaphat the legitimate archbishop (as another had been named by the separists). Josaphat’s former diocese of Vitebsk turned against him, incited by rumors spread by the Lithuanian chancellor, and in peace, Josaphat decided to return to that city to calm the bloodshed and violence. Aware of the danger he might encounter, Josaphat calmly said, "If I am counted worthy of martyrdom, then I am not afraid to die."
John 16:2, "Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God."
In one of his most famous speeches, Josaphat said to the people, "You people want to kill me. You wait in ambush for me in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, in the marketplace, everywhere. Here I am; I came to you as a shepherd. You know I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for union of the Church under Saint Peter and his successor the Pope."
"My children what are you doing with my servants? If you have anything against me, here I am, but leave them alone!"
With shouts of "Kill the papist" Josaphat was hit with a stick, then an axe, and finally shot through the head. His bloody body was dragged to the river and thrown in, along with the body of a dog who had tried to protect him.
The servants and friends of Josaphat were rescued from the mob by some Jewish residents of Vitebsk, uninvolved in the Christian fight. With great courage, they rushed into the fray, protecting the innocent and bringing them to safety. Later, these same courageous individuals were the only ones to publicly accuse the killers and mourn the death of Josaphat.
Saint Josaphat’s body, recovered form the river, was buried in Biala, Poland, and after five years, was found to be completely intact and incorrupt. A silver reliquary was made for it, with a life-sized image of the reclining saint surrounding it. More than one hundred years later, the body was again examined, and found to be intact. The relics were translated to the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, where they are venerated today.
Today, we continue to experience schisms and disagreements within the Church, and between the Christian faith traditions. These disagreements only serve to divide the Body of Christ, and prevent unified works of charity and reform in the world. We pray for Saint Josaphat’s intercession, for unification and communion.
fill your Church with the Spirit
that gave Saint Josaphat courage
to lay down his life for his people.
By his prayers
may your Spirit make us strong
and willing to offer our lives
for our brothers and sisters.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Year 2: Day 316 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Church unity.
Requested Intentions: Blessings on overseas employment (M); Healing of mother (L); Successful employment for husband (G); Successful employment, personal fulfillment (C); Health and recovery of ill sister (A); Resolution of legal issues; Grace and protection (E); Successful and meaningful employment (S); Restoration of a marriage (A); Peace and tolerance in a family, support for those with Parkinson’s Disease (M); For the restoration of a daughter’s marriage, end to debt (S); Employment and continued strength (K); Successful examinations for a son (J); Employment and blessings of a child (S); Employment and financial security (F); Successful work placement, continued health (A); Grace and healing for a family (P); Healing of a father (M); Academic success for son, employment for husband and brother (B); Freedom from anxiety and panic attacks (R); Health and healing in preparation for surgery (C); Healing of a chronic illness (P); Safety of a family during storms (A); Successful home ownership (P); Healing of a marriage (M); Employment for a husband, blessings for a marriage (E); Successful examinations for a daughter, healing of a relationships (V).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."