Profiles of the Saints and Feasts |
Thursday, November 14, 2002:
Double Feast of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr slain for the Faith in 1623
Also historical feast of Saint Laurence O'Toole, Archbishop of Dublin
Born in 1584 in Vladimir, a city of ancient Poland, Saint Josaphat was the son of Gabriel Kuncewicz. His was a family of honorable Christians of the Greco-Slavic rite, in use among the Russians. His mother took care to raise him in the fear of God, and in his tender heart formed the first longings for virtue. He was never in any way lightheaded, but separated willingly from the games of his companions to pray. He made excellent progress in his studies, always preferring the sacred branches to the profane, and for thirty years he recited each day, without ever failing even once to do so, a large section of the Divine Office which he learned by heart.
At twenty years of age Josaphat deplored the situation of religion in Poland. In 1596, the Ruthenian Church was divided into two contending parties — the Unionates and those who persevered in schism. He saw divisions growing in the Church, and that few were remaining faithful to the Holy See, to safeguard the true orthodoxy and their eastern rites. He studied philosophy and theology under two famous Jesuits, and decided to enter religious life. When his employer, who was childless and wished to keep him, offered him his commerce as his adopted son, he declined that offer without hesitating, and entered the Convent of the Trinity at Vilna, where Basilian religious submissive to the Holy See were residing. He received the religious habit and was professed in 1604.
Saint Josaphat was ordained a priest and began to preach in various churches of the city, bringing back many dissidents to the Union. He was invited also to preach and govern in various regions of the land; he accepted to become head of a monastery at Bytene. He restored there celebrated sanctuaries, built a convent, and converted, among others, one of the most zealous of the dissidents. In 1614 Josaphat’s friend Joseph Routski became Archbishop of the city of Vilna, and recalled his holy former companion to that city, confiding the monastery of the Trinity to him. Saint Josaphat never made harsh reproaches, but corrections warmed by a wholly paternal affection. The conversion of the separated brethren continued through the preaching of the one called by the Uniates The Scourge of the Schismatics, whereas the latter called him The Ravisher of Souls.
He became the Archbishop of Polotsk in 1617 at the age of thirty-eight, on the very day when, six years later, he would earn the consecration of blood, November 12th. He restored five major cathedrals and several lesser ones; he aided the poor, stripping himself often of the most necessary objects or funds. He maintained total frugality in his residence; he recovered certain properties retained unjustly by powerful lords of the region, through his mildness of language in the lawcourts, to which he had recourse for that purpose. But he was soon to acquire, in a certain Melece Smotritski, a formidable enemy, who had himself consecrated, in Russia, Archbishop of the same city as Josaphat, with other aspirants to like authority. Despite the opposition of King Sigismond of Poland, who forbade all his subjects to have any communication with the usurper, the latter won adherents. The people of the city of Vitebsk, a little like those of Jerusalem, who in one week’s time changed their hosanna’s into tolle’s, turned toward the newcomers in large numbers, and in an uprising succeeded in giving eighteen wounds to the head of the Archdeacon of the church, and leaving for dead another official, bathed in his blood.
When their Archbishop went there to calm the tumult in 1623, knowing well that his hour had come, in effect he was most cruelly assassinated and his body profaned; he was in his forty-fourth year. His mortal remains were recovered after five days from the waters of a river, and exposed for nine days, constantly emitting a fragrance of roses and lilies. A councillor of Polotsk, where the body was returned, abandoned the schism merely at the sight of the archbishop’s beautiful countenance. Many of the parricides struck their breasts, and did likewise. The Archbishop had gone gladly to his death, offering his life that the schism might end; he had said as much beforehand. Four years after his death the author of the troubles, Smotritski, the false archbishop, after many combats made a decisive step and consecrated his life to penance, prayer and the defense of the Union. Such changes of heart are indeed the greatest of miracles, won by the sanctity of the true servants of God.
About five years after Saint Josaphat’s martyrdom his body was found intact, though the clothing had rotted away. Again in 1637 it was still white and supple. A beautiful silver reliquary was made for it, with a life-size image of the reclining Saint surmounting it. The body was again exposed intact in 1767. It was eventually taken to the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. Pope Leo XIII canonized Saint Josaphat in 1867.
Sources: The Incorruptibles, by Joan Carroll Cruz (Tan Books and Publishers: Rockford, 1977); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13.
Friday, November 15, 2002:
Double Feast of Saint Albert the Great, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
Saint Albert the Great
Saint Albert the Great was born in the region of Ausgbourg, of parents rich in the goods of fortune in the year 1207. From the time he was a child, he manifested in his studies an unusual aptitude for the exact sciences. While he was still a boy, he had himself let down the side of a cliff to examine at close range an eagle’s nest which interested him. At the age of fifteen he was already a student of the natural sciences and the humanities at Bologna; Saint Dominic had died in that city the preceding year, 1221, and was buried in the Dominican Convent. Their house, in a suburban area of Bologna, was closely associated with the activities at the University, and students in large numbers were requesting admission to the Order.
Blessed Reginald of Orleans, Dominican, a former professor in Paris, came to preach there in the streets. The second Dominican General, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, a compatriot of Albert and a very eloquent preacher, was in Padua, and when the students of Bologna were transferred there Albert heard him at the Padua Dominican Church. He had already desired to enter the Order, but his uncle opposed to that plan a very vigorous opposition, and Albert was still very young. He dreamed one night that he had become a Dominican but left the Order soon afterwards. The same day he heard Master Jordan preach, and the Dominican General spoke of how the demon attempts to turn aside those who want to enter into religion, knowing that he will suffer great losses from their career in the Church; he persuades them in dreams that they will leave it, or else they see themselves on horseback, or clothed in purple, or as solitaries in the desert, or surrounded by cordial friends; thus he makes them fear entering because they would not be able to persevere. This was precisely Albert’s great concern, faced as he was with his uncle’s opposition. Afterwards the young student, amazed, went to Blessed Jordan, saying: “Master, who revealed my heart to you?” And he lost no time then in entering the Order at the age of sixteen, in 1223, having heard the same preacher remark to him personally that he should consider what a pity it would be if his excellent youthful qualities became the prey of eternal fires.
When he had earned the title of Doctor in theology, he was sent to Cologne, where for a long time his reputation attracted many illustrious disciples. The humble Albert, filled with the love of God, taught also in Padua and Bologna, in Saxony, at Fribourg, Ratisbonne and Strasbourg, and when Blessed Jordan of Saxony died in 1237, he occupied his place and fulfilled his functions until 1238, when the election of his successor was held. He returned then to Cologne, where he would encounter a disciple who alone among all of them would suffice for his glory — Saint Thomas Aquinas. This young religious, already steeped in the highest theological studies, was silent among the others, to the point of being called by his fellow students “the Mute Ox of Sicily.” But Albert silenced them, saying, “The bellowings of this ox will resound throughout the entire world.”
From Cologne, Saint Albert was called to the University of Paris, with his dear disciple. There his genius appeared in all its brilliance, and there he composed a large number of his writings. Later, obedience took him back to Germany as Provincial of his Order. Without a murmur, he said farewell to his cell, his books, and his numerous disciples, and as Provincial thereafter journeyed with no money, always on foot, visiting the numerous monasteries under his jurisdiction, throughout an immense territory in which were included Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, and other regions even to Holland.
He was no longer young when he had to submit to the formal order of the Pope and accept, in difficult circumstances, the episcopal see of Ratisbonne; there his indefatigable zeal was rewarded only by harsh trials, in the midst of which his virtue was perfected. When, in response to his persevering requests to be relieved of the responsibilities of a large see, Pope Urban IV restored to him the conventual peace of his Order, he was nonetheless obliged to take up his apostolic journeyings again. Finally he could enter into a definitive retreat, to prepare for death. One is astonished that amid so many labors, journeys and works of zeal, Albert could find the time to write on the natural sciences, on philosophy and theology, works which form from twenty-one to thirty-eight volumes, depending on the edition — and one may ask in which of his titles he most excelled, that of scholar, of Saint, or of Apostle.
He died, apparently of fatigue, at the age of seventy-three, on November 15, 1280, and his body was buried in Cologne in the Dominican church. He had to wait until December 16, 1931 for the honors of canonization and the extension of his cult to the universal Church. Proclaiming his holiness, Pope Pius XI added the glorious title, so well merited, of Doctor of the Church. From time immemorial, he has been known as Albert the Great.
Sources: Saint Albert le Grand, textes et études, translated and with a preface by Albert Garreau (Éditions Montaigne: Paris, 1942); Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).