st-josaphatSt. Josaphat (1580-1623) was born to a devout religious family of Ruthenian ancestry in what is now Ukraine, and was baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He devoted his virginity to the Virgin Mary and grew in his reverence for ancient liturgy. During a revival of Eastern Catholic monastic life he became a monk in the Order of St. Basil, and was ordained to Holy Orders in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1609. He was noted for his life of asceticism, holiness, and virtue which led to his appointment as Archbishop of Polotsk in what is today Belarus. During his lifetime there was much sociopolitical and ecclesiastical rivalry between the Catholics and Orthodox and the Latin and Byzantine rites, especially in the wake of the 1596 Union of Brest which saw the Ruthenian Church break with Orthodox and place itself under the authority of the Holy See. St. Josaphat was passionate about working for the reunification with Rome and won many heretics and schismatics back to communion with the Holy See. However, he was also strongly opposed to the Latinization of his people. This combination of views drew ire from both Catholic and Orthodox clergy. His diocese was contested by the Orthodox, and a rival Orthodox bishop was set up to oppose him, causing riots. During one uprising Josaphat tried to calm the tensions and work for reunification and peace, but his enemies plotted to kill him. A mob of Orthodox Christians entered Josaphat’s home, stabbed and axed his body and threw it into a river. His body was seen glowing in the water and was recovered, and after his martyrdom many miracles were attributed to his intercession. Josaphat’s sacrifice became a blessing as regret and sorrow over his death converted many hearts toward reunification with Rome. In 1867, Josaphat became the first saint of the Eastern Church to be formally canonized by Rome. His feast day is November 12.