The Hebrew name Jehoshaphat
means “God has judged!” It’s the name of Judah’s 4th king, whose reign [873–849 BC] was peacefully prosperous. Over the centuries many took that name in its Greek or Latin form: Josaphat, like the Saint we honor on November 12. Born in Lithuania in 1580 in an area equally split between Catholic and Orthodox Christians, he was martyred in 1630 on his present feast day. To understand his importance, we need a crash course in Catholic and Orthodox, Western and Eastern Churches.
All Catholics accept Peter’s successor, the Pope; while we of the Latin or Western Rite keep the customs developed in the Roman Empire, Eastern Rite Catholics follow many customs of the Byzantine Empire, which split from the Roman Empire in 295. While all Catholics adhere to the basics, we differ in disciplines and customs: the Roman Rite is less elaborate than most Eastern Rites; they allow Priests to marry, we do not [our married ‘Permanent’ Deacons only began 50 years ago!]; we use unleavened [flat] wafers, they use leavened bread, etc.
Since these are non-essential differences, we are one Church … but some Eastern Rites split from Rome in 1054 over political issues, fueled by sinful desires on both sides for power, position and prestige. This tragically split Christianity in two; each side ‘excommunicated’ the other – a rift that still sadly exists. But in 1964, Blessed Pope Paul VI met his Greek counterpart in an historic meeting during which they lifted their mutual bans, and the dialogue to heal the rift continues to this day. This brief history omits one man whose quest to heal the rift cost him his life: Saint Josaphat; here are his orations.
Collect – Saint Josaphat, Bishop & Martyr
Stir up in your Church, we pray, O Lord,
the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat
as he laid down his life for the sheep,
so that through his intercession
we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit
and not be afraid to lay down our life for others.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ … and ever. Amen.
FIRST CANONIZED EASTERN RITE SAINT.
You can easily tell Eastern Rite clergy by their vestments: their Deacon’s stole crosses his chest and hangs down his left side; Priests wear more cape-like vestments than our chasubles; their Bishops don crowns, not miters. Orthodox Bishops not in union with Rome wear long black veils. Most Roman Catholics mistakenly think we’re the only Catholics; Roman and Eastern Rite CATHOLICS can receive Holy Communion in each other’s Churches, but intercommunion with the Orthodox is not yet permitted. Saint Josaphat
worked tirelessly for Roman and Eastern Rite Catholics to respect each other’s differences, but was hated by both sides. His symbol is an axe, since he was hacked to death trying to unite two Catholic factions severed from each other. He’s also seen with an olive branch for his efforts to restore and keep peace.
Prayer over the Offerings – Saint Josaphat
Most merciful God, pour out your blessing
upon these offerings and confirm us
in the faith that Saint Josaphat professed
by the shedding of his blood.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
DO WE WORK FOR CATHOLIC UNITY?
Do we let non-essentials split our Parish, Diocese or the whole Church: styles of music, architectural designs, customs or other traditions? In honor of Saint Josaphat let’s make sure we never make mountains out of molehills … or major issues over what are merely preferences.
Prayer after Communion – Saint Josaphat
May this heavenly table, O Lord,
bestow on us a spirit of fortitude and peace,
so that, following Saint Josaphat’s example,
we may willingly spend our lives
working for the honor and unity of the Church.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
CHRISTIAN UNITY. While we will not be able to quickly heal millennial-old schisms, we can learn more about other Christians. What will you do to promote Christian unity and worldwide peace? Saint Josaphat, pray for us!
In His holy Name,
Rev. Thomas J. Serafin, KHS