St Josaphat and St Machar

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Archbishop. Born in 1584 in Wolodimir, then part of Poland. His parents belonged to the Eastern Rite Church of Kiev (Ukraine) which was then separated from Rome.

When John was a young child, his mother explained the icons in church. Years later he told a friend that he felt a spark of fire leave the wounded side of the Crucified and enter his own heart, which was filled with joy. This event influenced the rest of his life. He began to memorize the Church rituals and psalms. Within him grew the desire to suffer poverty and death for his Saviour.

John's father sent him to Vilno in Lithuania to learn more about the family business. But he spent most of his free reading the lives of the Saints and observing the religious ferment in the local church. The Ruthenians (the ethnic origin of his family) had been evangelized from Constantinople-modern Istanbul-and generally followed the lead of the Byzantine Church there. But because of the absorption of the Ruthenians into the Polish Kingdom, always staunch Roman Catholics, the question of reunion with Rome was hotly debated.

He became a monk of the Byzantine rite when he was about 20. Ten years later he was made abbot of Vilnius. Josaphat devoted his life to promoting unity between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

In 1618 he was made archbishop of Polatsk in Bielarus, and continued to defend the Byzantine rite Catholics against the Roman rite Polish clergy. When Russia set up a rival Orthodox hierarchy in 1623, he was murdered by a mob of Cossacks at Vitebsk. Before he died he said: "I rejoice to offer my life for my holy Catholic faith." He prayed: "Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the union and obedience to the Apostolic See."

In May 1643, he was beatified by Pope Urban VIII. It was not until June 29, 1867, that Pope Pius IX canonized him. On November 12, 1923, the 300th anniversary of Josaphat's martyrdom, Pope Pius XI declared him the heavenly Patron of Reunion between Orthodox and Catholics.

During the Second Vatican Council, at the express wish of Pope John XXIII, who himself was most interested in reunion, the body of St Josaphat was finally laid to rest at the magnificent altar of St Basil in St Peter's Basilica. This took place on 25 November, 1963.

He was the first Eastern-rite Catholic to be formally canonised in 1867. The Latin rite recognised him in 1882.

and St Machar

Bishop. This Sixth century saint was an Irish nobleman who was baptised by St Colman. Later he became a monk and a disciple of St Columba on Iona. He is said to have evangelised Mull and Aberdeen. St Machar's Cathedral in Aberdeen is named in his honour.

A stone carved with a Celtic cross - a clear indication of the site's Celtic roots - believed to have been associated with the original building is now on display in the church. For centuries, water from St Machar's well was used for baptisms in the Cathedral. A few other dedications to him survive in this part of Scotland.

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