Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jumpin' Josaphat!

Today is the feast of St. Josaphat, patron of Holy Unity--the first Eastern Catholic saint to be cannonized by Pope Leo XIII of Rome (I suppose all the Eastern saints before him were canonized when all Christians were united? or maybe up until then saints were either Eastern or Western?) in 1867. 
Born in the city of Vladimir, c. 1580, he chose to embrace the Eastern Rite (over the Orthodox tradition) and entered the Basilian monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilna, Lithuania in 1604.  He was ordained an Eastern Rite priest in 1609, and archbishop of Polotsk, Belarus in 1617 at age 38.  He prayed, "Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the Union and obedience for the Apolstolic See."  He was martyred for the Catholic faith on November 12, 1623.
Today at Mass, when the priest told us about the life of this Saint (I didn't even know about St. Josaphat until this morning), I was particularly glad to be Catholic--to be able to breathe with both lungs, as John Paul the Great said, and pratice and share both the Eastern and Western traditions of our faith. I love the beauty of the Eastern rite, but to be Orthodox would not be enough--as Fr. Joseph said in the first homily I heard from him, "It's good to have a father!" Sitting through Liturgy that day, I thought, "Yes, I like this whole 'Byzantine' thing!"  It's important to have a Father because a Father can stand up for you and defend you in the face of persecution. A Father can give you guidance when you are lost.  "We love our Pope," Fr. Joseph finished. And we do! 
So I'm glad to be Catholic, and to breathe with both lungs. I pray for the continued effort toward unity between the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, "that they may be one, Father" (John 17)

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