DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     November 11, 1998     vol. 9, no. 221


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Wednesday, November 11, 1998

      First Reading: Titus 3: 1-7
      Psalms: Psalm 23: 1-6
      Gospel Reading: Luke 17: 11-19

Feast of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop

         Born the son of a Roman officer and pagan parents in Hungary around the year 319, Saint Martin of Tours became the epitome of the Good Samaritan throughout his life, beginning at the age of 15. Having been educated at Pavia, Italy, Martin followed his father's footsteps when he enlisted in the Roman army as an imperial guard. On one cold day, the legend relates, he came upon a barely-clothed beggar who was shivering. As people passed him by, ignoring his pleas, Martin felt compassion. Having no money, only his weapons and his long red army-issued cloak, Martin drew his sword and slashed the cloak in half, giving the poor man the cloak to warm him. As he slept that night, Martin had a vision in his dreams of Jesus Christ who was wrapped in the half cloak Martin had bestowed on the beggar. It was a confirmation of Christ's words in Matthew 25:35-40 specifically the last verse, "Amen I say to you, as long as you did for one of these, the least of My brethren, you did it for Me." The dream had such a profound effect on Martin that he immediately sought out the Christians for catechumenism. Constantine had passed the Edict of Milan and Christians were now free to openly profess their faith. After six years as a catachumen, Martin was baptized and traded his commission in the army for the minor order of exorcist by Saint Hilary of Poitiers. After Hilary was exiled, Martin went back to his Hungarian homeland, where, through his example he converted his pagan mother. After Hilary was allowed to return to Poitiers in France, Martin left Hungary to rejoin Hilary there as his disciple. Martin was ordained and became a hermit on land that would eventually become the monastery of Liguge - the first ever monastery in France that was reinstated by the Benedictines in 1852 and still exists today. Martin gained the reputation of being a miracle worker after he had brought a catechumen back to life. He became so popular that the people of Tours demanded he become their bishop when the vacancy came. In 371 he was selected Bishop of Tours and dedicated his episcopate to evangelization. Four years later he founded the monastery at Marmoutiers where vocations multiplied, providing many priest-monks for the region and beyond. He was an excellent diplomat and administrator, convincing representatives of the Roman Empire in the west that the Church should have the same guidelines and freedom in France that Constantine afforded Holy Mother Church in Rome. His austere lifestyle was a bone of contention among other bishops and priests who fought his attempts to instill this way of life on them. While at a country parish trying to quell the division among the clergy, he died in 397 at the age of 78. His efforts and the seeds of faith he planted in French soil nourished France for centuries where Tours became the focal point of monastic life. He was one of the most well-beloved bishops of the 4th Century and has always been one of France's favorite saints so much so that in the autumn, when the leaves begin to fall, they call it "St. Martin's summer" for that is the time the people drink the new wine that has been harvested and wine represents the fruit of Christian virtue which Martin personified.

Thursday, November 12, 1998

      First Reading: Philemon 1: 7-20
      Psalms: Psalm 146: 7-10
      Gospel Reading: Luke 17: 20-25

Feast of Saint Josaphat, Bishop, Religious and Martyr

         In 1580, during the papacy of Pope Gregory XIII- author of the Gregorian Calendar, Saint Josaphat was born as John Kuncevic to an Orthodox family in Vladimir, Poland. Though he was born into the Greek Orthodox Church and a Pole, he became a member of the Uniate Ruthenian Church in Vilna, Lithuania. In the 16th and 17th Centuries the Ruthenian followers were divided into three sects - the Catholic or Latin Church in total union with Rome, the Orthodox Greek Church which answered to the Patriarch of Constantinople and Moscow, and the Greek Uniate Church which the Polish people had discarded because of the lengthy liturgy and the ignorant clergy who were allowed to marry. In a word, respect was non-existent for the latter hierarchy. The Roman Catholic Church had become strong in Poland, but had failed to make headway into Lithuania or Russia, but a synod held by the Ruthenian Church in 1595 opted to be reunited with the Church of Rome pending approval by Pope Clement VIII. So excited with this proposition was John that he became a Basilian monk at the age of 24 at Holy Trinity Monastery at Vilna and was given the religious name of Josaphat. Along with a friend and fellow monk Jozef Rutski, he worked long and hard on bringing reform to the Basilians in anticipation of union with Rome. At the age of 37 Josaphat released an extensive thesis in the Slavic language on the natural roots of unity of the Ukranian Church with the Church of Rome. Through his efforts he started a Basilian monastery that was totally in union with the Catholic Church. When his friend Jozef became metropolitan of Kiev, Josaphat became archimandrite of the monastery which was the same as abbot in the Roman Church, before being appointed in 1617 Archbishop of Polotsk on the eastern border of Lithuania next to western Russia. Because of the state of disrepair in his new diocese and the strong opposition to Rome, Josaphat knew in his heart his mission was to reach out to the Ruthenians and convince them the Catholic Church was the true faith. He carried this out through synods, seminars, and catechesis studies. When some priests rebelled, he exacted sanctions on clergy who were not following the true teachings. This naturally caused dissension and resentment and many of the misguided clergy stirred up opposition to Josaphat, spreading fear among the Ruthenians that if the Latin rite were introduced into their land they would lose everything from their culture to their property. This caused the Ruthenians to rally against Josaphat. It turned to outright hatred when, in 1621 the Byzantine Patriarch of Jerusalem traveled to the Ukraine to consecrate a metropolitan and a handful of Orthodox bishops in the Ruthenian Church. This action further eroded support for Josaphat and the plotters, led by antiarchbishop Metetius Smotritsky, sought to seal his fate by stirring fear in the populace at a time when Poland was being threatened by the Turks from the South and Sweden to the north. In addition, Poland was cautious of coming to Josaphat's aid because Josphat, though in total union with Rome, still insisted on keeping the Byzantine rites and customs in the Ukranian Church as opposed to the Latin rite in Poland. To quell the opposition Josaphat decided to go to Vitebsk, Russia which was then known as "White Russia" and where he had first become an auxilary bishop, to meet face to face with his enemies in hopes of a peaceful dialog. However this was thwarted when a priest named Elias harassed Josaphat and was locked up. The people demanded Elias' release and as they assembled taunts of kill Josaphat rose to a fever pitch. As Josaphat held out his hands to quiet the crowd and speak reasonably to the maddening mob, they stormed the platform and began beating him. As the frenzied mob of Ruthenians roared its approval, one man cleared a path and leveled his rifle at Josaphat killing the saint instantly. They then dispatched of his body by hurling it into the Dvina River. Thus this Eastern saint became a martyred victim of the cruel persecution by the Slav-Ruthenian Church in Russia in 1623. Nearly 250 years later Pope Pius IX canonized Josaphat as the first Eastern saint to formally be canonized in such a process. The efforts begun by Josaphat are being carried out today by Pope John Paul II in uniting the Orthodox Churches with Rome and the Uniate Churches such as the Ukranian Rite and Byzantine Rite which are in union with the Pope, yet maintain an eastern culture in their liturgy and language.

November 11, 1998       volume 9, no. 221


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