Fr Richard's words for today's memorial of St Josaphat, the Ukrainian bishop and martyr
Witness of fidelity
Jesus foreshadows His own Passion in today’s Gospel. He says the Son of Man will light up heaven when His day comes: “But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.”
St Josaphat imitated his Divine Saviour in his suffering and death. Josaphat too was rejected by the people of his generation and was martyred for fidelity to Christ and His Holy Church. The holy Bishop of Polotsk shed his blood for Christ amid his work for unity between the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church. Named John in his early life, he became Josaphat when he entered a monastery of the Order of Saint Basil. He himself was born into an Orthodox family but entered the Catholic Faith after his own Ruthenian Church was brought into communion with Rome. His life as a priest then bishop was one of zeal and care for souls. The resolve at the heart of his pastoral ministry was the unity of Christians under the See of Peter.
Sadly, he had many enemies. He suffered slander to his name, subjected to malicious suggestions about his character. On this day in 1623, an Orthodox priest was shouting insults outside Archbishop Josaphat’s residence and was trying to force his way in. St Josaphat had him removed but the priest returned armed with a mob from the town who demanded the archbishop’s life. As he was shot and beheaded, St Josaphat died praying for his attackers, who then dumped his body into a river.
Every martyr is a witness to the Passion of Christ on the Cross for our salvation. They remind us that suffering is part of the Christian life and that proclaiming and living the truth of Christ and His Church doesn’t always make us popular in society. But as Christ preaches in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven…” (Mt 5:11-12)