St. Josaphat was born John Kuncevic about 1580 in Vladimir, a village of the Lithuanian Province of Volhynia (then a part of the Polish Kingdom begun under the Jagellonian Dynasty). His parents belonged to the Eastern Rite Church of Kyiv (Ukraine) which was then separated from Rome.
When John was just a 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 Savior.
John’s father sent him to Vilno in Lithuania to learn more about the family business. Nevertheless, he spent much of his leisure in 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.Read More »