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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

St. Josaphat: “The Ravisher of Souls.”

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

Saint Josaphat (1584-1623) was an Eastern-rite Catholic, born in 1584 in Vladimir, a city of ancient Poland. He became a Basilian monk and eventually became an Archbishop. Before his martyrdom, he saw, in his short life, the tremendous tension between Eastern Rite Catholics and the Orthodox.

When Saint Josaphat was ordained a priest, he began to preach in various churches of the city, bringing back many of the faithful into union with the See of Rome. Saint Josaphat never made harsh reproaches. No his corrections always were made with a fatherly affection. So effective was he in bringing souls back into union with the See of Peter that he was nicknamed “The Ravisher of Souls.”

He became the Archbishop of Polotsk on November 12th 1617, at the age of 38. But only six years later, on the very same day, he would earn the consecration of blood. He would become a martyr. When he went tried to preach the unity of the Catholic faith, he was most cruelly assassinated and his body profaned.

His mortal remains were recovered after five days from the river, and exposed for nine days, constantly emitting a fragrance of roses and lilies. A city official of Polotsk, where his body was returned, abandoned the schismatic Orthodox church merely at the sight of the archbishop’s beautiful countenance.

The Archbishop had gone gladly to his death, offering his life that the schism might end. Four years after Saint Josaphat’s death, Smotritski, the Orthodox archbishop, had a change of heart. He consecrated his life to penance, prayer and to the unity of faith. Such changes of heart are indeed the greatest of miracles, won by the sanctity of the true friends 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. As we strive to bring the Orthodox Christians back into full union with the Holy See, let us pray for the intercession of St. Josaphat, who was that father of unity and “The Ravisher of Souls.”


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