Blessed James of Strepar
(Blessed Jacques de Strepa)
Feast Day – October 18
James was born in the 14th century of a noble Polish family of Strepar and was educated in a Christian manner by his pious parents. To escape the dangers of the world, he entered the poor order of St. Francis when he was a young man. Very soon he became distinguished among his brethren for eminent virtue, rare attainments, and zeal for the salvation of souls.
The neighboring realm of Russia presented at that time a wide field for the exercise of his zeal. Partly it was still inhabited by heathens; and where the Catholic Church had flourished for centuries, Greek schismatics had long been endeavoring to win the people from the Mother Church at Rome. With the consent of his superiors James went to Russia to preach the Gospel and to save the faithful from going astray.
About 1360, Blessed James of Strepar had a share in the organization of a special group of Franciscan missionaries called Societas Peregrinantium or Travelers for Christ, who did excellent work in Russia. Wallachia, and Podolia, and in 1401 extended their activities also to the Tatars near the Caspian Sea and other parts of Asia. Father James' missionary efforts were so successful, and his apostolic virtues were so pronounced, that on the death of the archbishop of Halicz, the pope named him his successor at the request of the king of Poland in 1392.
Only because he was compelled, did James accept the dignity. But even as a bishop he wore the Franciscan habit and as far as possible continued his missionary labors.
To preserve the Catholics of the old and the newly acquired districts in Christian truth, he built many new churches and convents. His large income was used only for this purpose and for the support of the poor.
To secure God's blessing on the territory entrusted to his spiritual care, he considered nothing more helpful than veneration of the Mother of God. Next to God he placed his confidence in her. Instead of the family coat-of-arms, he had the image of Mary engraved on his seal; everything he prescribed for his diocese was to have the seal of Mary. He had her image also on his pastoral ring. Every evening devotions were held in her honor in the cathedral or wherever he chanced to be; and he always attended the services. He urged the people to attend these devotions, as well as special devotions of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for which he issued special regulations and granted indulgences.
James was also mindful of the temporal welfare of his flock. In order to check the frequent inroads of the Tatars, who were laying the country waste, he proposed such excellent measures to the Polish parliament that he was quite generally called the protector of the kingdom.
After a laborious and blessed episcopate of 19 years, God called Blessed James of Strepar to receive his heavenly reward in the year 1410. Clothed in the habit of the order and wearing the marks of his episcopal dignity, he was entombed in the Franciscan church at Lwow, to which the archbishopric had been transferred from Halicz. When his grave was opened after 200 years his body and clothing were found entirely incorrupt. Later the remains were removed to the cathedral.
The continued veneration paid to Blessed James of Strepar was formally approved by Pope Pius VI.
from: The Franciscan Book Of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, OFM
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