St. Josaphat

Friends in Christ, many of us know people who are Greek Orthodox, or Ukrainian Orthodox or other Orthodox Christians. These Churches, even though not Catholic, do have the Holy Eucharist and the 7 Sacraments. They are the closest to us of all other Faiths. In fact, if you are traveling, and can’t get to a Catholic Church, you may attend an Orthodox Mass.
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The Orthodox Mass is a different style than ours. The sanctuary is covered with a wall of pictures of saints, and at the Consecration, the priest is inside an enclosure which represents heaven. Our Mass too, in ancient times, had a curtain pulled around the altar. We still require a sanctuary in a Church to be elevated, to signify that we are touching heaven. Still, at our Latin Mass, during the Consecration, the priest whispers the prayers, signifying that he has slipped into heaven, Christ enters heaven to offer his Blood for us.
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In any case, the Orthodox DO have a valid Mass. But what are their Churches missing? They are lacking union with the Holy Father, the Pope. Now the Catholic Church has been working hard the last 20 years to restore our union with the Orthodox, and it may happen in our lifetime.
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This brings us to the Saint of today, St. Josaphat. St. Josaphat was born in Lithuania, nearly 400 years ago (1580.) He was born Orthodox, but he converted to the Catholic Faith. Though he had a good job and the opportunity to marry a pretty girl, he decided to become a monk, and lived an ascetical life at a monastery. He went barefoot in the winter, and did not drink wine or eat meat – He was quite bright, and came to know many languages. Soon, he was elected Bishop, and later Archbishop.
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He worked hard to bring union between the Catholics and the Orthodox. Josaphat brought millions of Orthodox into the Catholic Faith. Those who converted, retained their ancient Liturgy, and these are now called Eastern Rite Catholics. So there are other Rites within the Catholic Church, and one of them, which does celebrate this style of liturgy, is right down the street from us. They are just as much Catholic as we are, merely a different Rite.[i]
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In the days of St. Josaphat many did not want reunion with the Catholic Church, so they planned to kill him. His enemies called him a Papist – ‘Kill the Papist!’, they yelled. They bashed in his head with a rock and shot him. His body was thrown into the river, but miraculously, it floated to the surface with rays of light coming from it. In the end, his murderers repented and became Catholics. St. Josaphat was the first saint of the Eastern Rite churches to be canonized by Rome.

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[i] Sometimes Eastern Rite Catholics ask me to anoint them in the hospital, and that is no problem.

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