Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Apostle for Unity

Altar of St. Basil inside the Vatican
This feast of St. Josephat is very special in the life of our small community.  Having come into full communion in the Catholic Church in June of 2007, we were privileged to spend a year in the Eternal City bonding with the Holy Father, the Church, the Italian culture, and assisting in the apostolate of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma.
Upon our arrival in Rome, we were instructed that the Vatican opens it doors at 7:00 am to those who wish to attend Mass.  Not yet familiar with the Italian language, we were hoping to find a priest who spoke English.  We were instructed to stand at the sacristy door and as the priests come out vested, simply say "English".  Soon we found a priest willing to offer the Mass in English, but he needed an English Missal. Spotting our "Magnificat" prayer books, the problem was solved. We followed Father to his assigned altar and to our surprise, it was the Altar of St. Basil, that houses the mortal remains of St. Josephat.  Why was this significant?  Having been so long separated from the Church, the Holy Spirit was directing us to work for the fulfillment of Our Lord's prayer at the Last Supper, "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you....." (John 17:21)........... St. Josephat died promoting this same cause of Christ.

St. Josephat, known as John Kuncevic,  was a young man at the time of Ruthenian Synod in 1595, which voted to unite with Rome under Pope Clement VIII.  In 1598 seven bishops signed the Union of Brest, which allowed them to retain their Eastern Rites while in full communion with the Pope. John made his profession of Faith and then entered the Basilian Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilno and took the name Josaphat.  He was ordained a priest and subsequently an Archbishop.  Among the many works he engaged in, he compiled texts from the Eastern Fathers and Doctors under the title "A Defense of Church Unity" and worked for reunion with Rome. 
Josaphat had said before his martyrdom, "I rejoice to offer my life for my holy Catholic faith." He had prayed, "Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the union and obedience to the Apostolic See."  He was cruelly hacked to death on November 12, 1623.

Tomb of St. Josephat
We all believe that it was in God's providence that we were able to attend our first Mass at the Vatican at the altar of St. Josephat.  We decided to adopt St. Josephat as a special patron of our community, asking him to help us fulfill the particular charism that the Holy Spirit has given us.  We are truly grateful for the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.  "Oh, give thanks to God, for He is good.  For His mercy endures forever!" (1 Chronicles 16:34)

If you wish to read more about St. Josaphat follow this link:

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