St Josaphat

Archbishop of Polotsk (Belarus), martyr (entered heaven in 1623)

Dear Joseph,

Persecution comes in many forms.  The difficulties you described in your last note, in my opinion, are a type of persecution.  So the question becomes, how will you respond to them? As a leadership team member, your Compass chapter, though not extremely large, is depending on you.  In a certain sense, God has entrusted those Compass members to your spiritual care. How much are you willing to sacrifice for their sake? How much does it matter to you that they receive the support and formation in their faith that Compass can give them?  Is what happens to their faith during their college years indifferent? The devil doesn’t think so. He knows that in your Compass chapter there are future saints, priests and religious, leaders of society who will affect hundreds, maybe thousands of souls throughout the coming years.  He wants to distance them from Christ however he can, and distancing them from Compass, from his diabolical perspective, is a big step in the right direction.

So what will you do?  Are you willing to sacrifice for the good of your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Our Lord said, “No greater love has a man than to give his life for his friends.” How firmly do you believe it?  He also said, “There is more joy in giving than receiving.” How deeply to you believe the words of Jesus Christ? Deeply enough to follow them, no matter the cost?  As you think about it, contemplate the example of today’s saint, whose faith was both firm and deep.

You see, Josaphat was the son of a Catholic father, but he lived in an Orthodox region.  (You remember, I presume, that the Orthodox Christians, most of whom live in the eastern Mediterranean or in Slavic countries, have rejected the primacy of the Roman Pontiff ever since the unfortunate falling out of 1054.)   Early on he felt a call to serve the cause of unity by dedicating himself to the priestly ministry, which he did with great success in the Ukraine, Poland, and finally in Belarus, where he was made bishop of the Eparchy (diocese) of Polatsk.  Upon his arrival the entire eparchy was in a deplorable state of relaxed morals and ecclesiastical disarray. His prudent pastoring and passionate preaching initiated a vibrant reform in every aspect of the community. In Polatsk as elsewhere, his great cause was reestablishing union with the Successor of St Peter, the Bishop of Rome, and because of his exemplary virtue and tireless charity, he won the whole Eparchy to this all-important cause.  Soon, however, Orthodox dissidents established a parallel hierarchy in the aftermath of the Union of Brest (politics often seems to get in the way, doesn’t it?) and sent their own archbishop to Polatsk, one Moletius Smotritsky. Smotritsky energetically set about undoing the good work accomplished by Josaphat, and soon had raised a vociferous anti-Catholic party with members throughout the diocese. Such was their ire at the saintly archbishop who insisted on returning to union with the ancient Church that they eventually stormed his quarters and murdered him, throwing his mutilated body into the river.

He knew it was coming, but he stuck to his post, not because he was stubborn, but because he cared about the souls that had been entrusted to him.  He knew that they had no greater spiritual security than staying united to the See of Peter, the rock that Christ promised would be unshakable. I know you care too.  And I know you want to lead others closer to Christ. He will give you the strength you need, as long as he knows you are willing to stick by him no matter what.  And I think you are.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy


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