St. Josaphat, First Saint of the Eastern Church
Saint Josaphat was born in the Ukraine of Orthodox parents about the year 1580 and given the name John at baptism. He entered the Basilian monastery of the Trinity at Vilna in 1604, taking the name Josaphat. He was ordained priest in 1609 and was chosen bishop of Polock in 1614.
Josaphat was a famous preacher who worked to bring unity among the faithful, and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. In a sermon, he himself spoke of his death as imminent.
When he visited Vitebsk (now in Russia) on November 12, 1623, his enemies attacked his lodging and murdered a number of his companions. Meekly the man of God hastened toward the mob and, full of love, cried, “My children, what are you doing? If you have something against me, see, here I am.” With furious cries of “Kill the papist!”, they rushed upon him with gun and sword. Josaphat’s body was thrown into the river but emerged, surrounded by rays of light, and was recovered. His murderers, when sentenced to death, repented their crime and became Catholics.
In 1867, Josaphat was canonized by Pope Pius IX, becoming the first saint of the Eastern Church to be formally canonized by Rome.
St. Josaphat is the patron saint of the Ukraine.