Question: Whether one ought to venerate Mark of Ephesus, Nectarios of Aegina, Nicodemus of Mt. Athos, and other such men?
Answer: In the negative.
(2) God can give natural enlightenment (e.g., by a missionary) or supernatural enlightenment (e.g., illumination) to people who through fault of their own are ignorant of the Catholic Church (e.g, they are in a remote forest and cannot find out about the only true Church through study) who persevere in sincerely seek truth and doing the will of God to the best of their ability by following the dictates of their natural law so that they do not perish without first being received into the Church or explicitly desiring to be received into the Church; “if someone [who] is brought up in the forest or among wild beasts … followed the direction of natural reason in seeking good and avoiding evil, we must most certainly hold that God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the faith to him as He sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:20)” [St. Thomas Aquinas, The Disputed Questions on Truth, Vol. II , Q. 14, a. 2; trans. Robert W. Mulligan, S.J. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1952, 262)” and “God may enlighten, at the hour of death, one who is not yet a Catholic, so that he may see the truth of the Catholic faith, be truly sorry for his sins, and sincerely desire to die a good Catholic” [Fr. Michael Müller, Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine 108; cf. Denzinger 1647-1648, 1677-1678].
1. Some post-1054 saints common to Orthodox and Catholic calendars were, in fact, in communion with the Apostolic See, such as many 11th- and 12th-century holy monks from Kiev, according to Fr. Yves Congar, O.P., “A propos des saints canonisés dans les Eglises orthodoxes,” Revue des sciences religieuses, 22 (1948), 246.
2. Because of the above, no one ought to venerate such bastions of anti-Catholicism as the following, because there is no evidence accepted by the Church that they changed their minds in their last seconds of earthly life; they thus do not belong on any church calendar. The Orthodox praise many of these men, even in their Liturgy, precisely for their opposition to communion with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
3. The reports of posthumous miracles, which have not been verified by anything close to such a trustworthy body as the meticulous Congregation for the Causes of Saints, are a priori extremely unlikely. According to the 2003 New Catholic Encyclopedia 9:669-670, while God sometimes works miracles outside of the Catholic Church to manifest His presence in certain events, support a doctrine that separated Churches have retained from the Catholic Church, or to increase the faith of individuals, He never works miracles in circumstances that could, with good reason, be construed as confirming a non-Catholic “religion as a whole or … a doctrine” opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
4. Some of these men were murdered by sinful Catholics for their opposition to the Unia; both their killers’ bloodthirstiness and their refusal to enter the Catholic Church are detestable. Alexander Nevsky was Catholic for part of 1248, his brother Andrew II was Catholic at least for a time, and their father Yaroslav II died a Catholic, as I will show in a future post.
*Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre (May 7) [1853-1909] – (1) “Like many others in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Toths were Eastern Rite Catholics. Alexis’ father and brother were priests and his uncle was a bishop in the Uniate church. … He married Rosalie Mihalich, a priest’s daughter, and was ordained on April 18, 1878 to serve as second priest in a Uniate parish. … In October, 1889 he was appointed to serve as pastor of a Uniate parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota. … Subsequently, Bishop Vladimir came to Minneapolis and on March 25, 1891 received Father Toth and 361 parishioners into the Orthodox Church of their ancestors. The parishioners regarded this event as a new Triumph of Orthodoxy, crying out with joy: ‘Glory to God for His great mercy!'” (2) “The example of St Alexis and his parish in returning to Orthodoxy was an encouragement to hundreds of other Uniates. The ever-memorable one was like a candle upon a candlestick giving light to others (Mt.5:15), and his flock may be likened to the leaven mixed with meal which leavened the whole (Mt.13:33). Through his fearless preaching he uprooted the tares which had sprung up in the wheat of true doctrine, and exposed the false teachings which had led his people astray.” (3) “Alexis visited many Uniate parishes, explaining the differences between Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Uniatism, stressing that the true way to salvation is in Orthodoxy. … He was instrumental in the formation or return of seventeen parishes, planting a vineyard of Christ in America, and increasing its fruitful yield many times over. By 1909, the time of his blessed repose, many thousands of Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniates had returned to Orthodoxy. … Any future growth or success may truly be regarded as the result of Father Toth’s apostolic labors.”
*Anthony of Chkondidi (October 13) [†1815]: (1) “A group of French missionaries arrived to instruct him in the foundations of Scholastic philosophy, which was very fashionable in Europe at that time. Anthony, however, recognized that his foreign tutors had tainted Orthodox doctrine with the poison of heresy. Once, during a meal, Anthony turned to a certain Frenchman and asked, ‘Can you pour wine into this water-filled cup and keep it from mixing with the water?’ The Catholic priest answered that it was impossible, and Anthony replied, ‘As it is impossible to pour water and wine into a single vessel and keep them from mixing, so it is impossible to accommodate both Orthodox doctrine and heresy!’ From that day Anthony parted with the French missionaries.”
*Athanasius of Brest-Litovsk (July 20) [1597-1648]: (1) “Deeply religious, inexorably devoted to the faith of the holy Fathers, he became bold and expressed by word and by deed his priestly indignation against the oppression of Orthodox Christians by the haughty Uniates. With fervent faith in his calling by God, he entered into the struggle for his oppressed brethren. ‘I am not a prophet, but only a servant of God my Creator, sent because of the times, in order to speak the truth to everyone. He has sent me, so that I might proclaim beforehand the destruction of the accursed Unia.’ Such were the words of the fervent, unyielding and inspired struggler for Orthodoxy, who deeply believed in the victorious power of the true Faith.” (2) “Athanasius saw the complete affirmation of Orthodoxy and the final and total undoing of the Unia as his single goal. He dedicated his whole life to this end. Having submitted to the will of God, he had no thought of danger, nor did he consider the obstacles, in fulfilling his holy duty. … Athanasius used His daring, spiritually-inspired speeches and writings, his published grievances, and voluntary folly in Christ for the attainment of his sacred goal: the affirmation of Orthodoxy in the ancient Russian land.” (3) “Having repudiated the Unia, he was inspired with a deep sense of pity and love towards those who had become the victims of Uniate proselitism [sic]. … He constantly repeated his prediction: ‘The Unia will die out, but Orthodoxy will flourish.’“
*Athanasius III Patelarios of Constantinople, “Wonderworker” of Lubensk (May 2) [1560-1654]: (1) “Patriarch Athanasius led an incessant struggle against heretics, Jesuits, and Moslems.” (2) “In 1652 after the death of Patriarch Cyril I, St Athanasius was returned to the patriarchal throne. He remained only fifteen days, since he was not acceptable to the Moslems and Catholics. During his final Patriarchal service he preached a sermon in which he denounced papal pretensions to universal jurisdiction over the whole Church. Persecuted by the Moslems and Jesuits, physically weakened, he transferred the administration of the Church of Constantinople to Metropolitan Paisius of Laureia …”
*Bessarion Sarai of Romania (October 21) [1714-1745]: (1)
*Cosmas of Aetolia (August 24) [†1779]: (1) “My brothers, I studied for forty and fifty years. I read many books about the Jews, the idolaters, and about the impious and heretics. I studied the depths of wisdom. All the other faiths are false and counterfeit. Only our own faith, the Orthodox Christianity, is True and Holy.”
*Gerasimus of Perm (January 24) [†1441]: (1) “He was elevated to the See of Perm sometime after 1416, and participated in many Church councils: one in 1438 to condemn the Unia and Metropolitan Isidore, and one in 1441, which defined the selection of the Metropolitan of All Rus by a Council of Russian pastors.”
*Hermogenes “the Wonderworker” of Moscow (February 17) [1530-1612] – (1) “With special inspiration His Holiness the Patriarch stood up against the traitors and enemies of the nation, who wanted to spread Uniatism and Western Catholicism throughout Russia and to wipe out Orthodoxy, while enslaving the Russian nation.” (2) “During this dark period, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church selflessly protected the Russian realm, by word and by deed defending the Orthodox Faith from Latinism, and also national unity from internal and external enemies. In saving his native land, St Hermogenes won the crown of a martyrdom, becoming a heavenly intercessor for Russia before the Throne of the Holy Trinity.”
*Isidore of Estonia (January 8) [†1472]: (1) “the Livonian knights (who were German Catholics) broke the treaty and tried to force the Orthodox to become Roman Catholics. The priest Isidore bravely stood forth in defense of Orthodoxy, preferring to accept a martyr’s crown rather than submit to the Catholics. The Latin bishop and the Roman Catholic nobles of Yuriev had been told that St Isidore and the Orthodox population of the city had spoken against the faith and customs of the Germans. When St Isidore and seventy-two of his parishioners went to bless the waters of the River Omovzha (or Emaiyga, now Emajogi) for the Feast of Theophany, they were arrested and brought before the Latin bishop Andrew and the civil judges of the city. Pressure was brought on them to convert to Catholicism, but the saint and his flock refused to renounce Christ or the Orthodox Faith. Enraged by this, the authorities had them thrown into prison. … Isidore encouraged his flock to prepare themselves for death, and not to fear torture. He partook of the reserved Gifts he carried with him, then communed all the men, women, and children with the Holy and Life-Giving Mysteries of Christ. Then the bishop and the judges summoned the Orthodox to appear before them once more, demanding that they convert to Catholicism. When they refused to do so, they were dragged back to the river and pushed through the hole in the ice that they had cut to bless the water. So they all suffered and died for Christ, Who bestowed on them crowns of unfading glory.”
*Isidore Tverdislov “the Wonderworker” of Rostov (May 14) [†1474]: (1) “It is not known where he accepted the holy Orthodox Faith, but he was raised in Catholicism.”
*Job “the Wonderworker” of Pochaev (October 28) [1551-1651]: (1) “Job was appointed the head of the Exaltation of the Cross monastery near the city of Dubno, and for more than twenty years he governed the monastery amidst the growing persecution of Orthodoxy on the part of the Catholics and Uniates.” (2) “Job was an ardent defender of the Orthodox Faith against the persecution of the Catholics. Following the Union of Brest (1596), many Orthodox living in Poland were deprived of their rights, and attempts were made to force them to convert to Catholicism. Many Orthodox hierarchs became apostates to Uniatism, but St Job and others defended Orthodoxy by copying and disseminating Orthodox books.” (3) “In taking an active part in the defense of Orthodoxy and the Russian people, St Job was present at the 1628 Kiev Council, convened against the Unia.”
*John of Galesh (October 21) [†after 1780] – (1) “He resisted the plans of the Hapsburg authorities to persuade Orthodox Christians to convert to Catholicism. He was arrested and thrown into prison at Sibiu in 1756, then Empress Maria Theresa ordered him confined in the prison of Deva Castle until he died.”
*John “the Wonderworker” of Kronstadt (December 20) [1829-1908]: (1) “The Lord Himself is ever-present in His Church; why then a vicar, the pope? And can a sinful man take the place of the Lord? He cannot. There can be, and there are, vicars for the Tsar, for the Patriarch, but no one can be a vicar, a substitute, for the Lord, Who is the Tsar without beginning and the Head of the Church. Truly, the Catholics have gone astray. Suggest to them, O Lord, that those who affirm such things are foolish and laid around with pride as with a necklace. The most harmful thing in Christianity, in this God-revealed, heavenly religion, is the leadership of one man in the Church-for instance, the pope, and his supposed infallibility. It is precisely in the dogma of his infallibility that the greatest mistake is contained, for the pope is a sinful man, and O the disaster if he fancies himself to be infallible! How many great errors, destructive of the souls o men, has the Catholic, papal church thought up–in dogmas, in rites, in canonical rules, in the Divine Services, in the deadly and malicious relations of the Catholics with the Orthodox, in blasphemies and slanders against the Orthodox Church, in revilings directed against the Orthodox Christians! And of all this the professedly infallible pope is guilty, with his and the Jesuits’ teaching, their spirit of falsehood, duplicity, and every sort of unrighteous means ad maiorem Dei gloriam (for the–alleged–greater glory of God).” (2) “The cause of all the errors of the Roman Catholic Church is pride and the acknowledgment of the pope as the real head of the church, as well as the belief that he is infallible. From hence all the oppression on the part of the western church arises. The oppression of thought and faith, the deprivation of true freedom both in faith and life – all things upon which the pope has placed his heavy hand; from hence come the false dogmas, from hence the duplicity and slyness in thought, word, and deed; from hence the various false rules and regulations for the confession of sins; from hence indulgences; from hence the distortion of dogmas; from hence the fabrication of the saints of the western church and of non-existent relics, not glorified by God; from hence ‘the exalting against the knowledge of God’ (2 Cor 10:5), and every sort of opposition to God under the appearance of piety and zeal for the greater glory of God. The pope and the papists have become so proud and have so exalted themselves that they have thought to criticize Christ Himself–the Hypostatic Wisdom of God Himself–and have extended their pride to the point that they have distorted some of His words, commandments, and ordinances which should not be altered to the end of this age: for example, His statement concerning the Holy Spirit, His commandment concerning the cup of His all-immaculate Blood, of Which they have deprived the layman, setting at naught the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come’ (1 Cor 11:26); instead of leavened bread in the liturgy, they use wafers.”
*Joseph of Maramures (April 24) [†1711]: (1) “This was a period of great trials and sufferings for the people of Maramures (in northern Romania) because the Roman Catholic authorities wanted to wipe out Orthodoxy in the region. … Joseph was a zealous defender of the Orthodox Faith, and therefore he was jailed by the civil authorities. He died in 1711 after suffering for the truth and defending his flock.”
*Justin Popovich of Serbia (June 14) [4/6/1894-4/7/1979]: (1) “In the history of mankind there are three falls: The fall of Adam, of Judas the Iscariot and that of the Pope. The essence of falling into sin is always the same: the desire to become God by oneself. In this manner, a man insensibly equates himself with the devil, because he also wants to become God by himself to replace God with himself… The fall of the Pope lies exactly in this very thing; to want to replace the God-man with the man…”
*Macarius the Roman of Novgorod (January 19 and August 15) [†8/15/1550] – (1) “Macarius the Roman was born at the end of the fifteenth century into a wealthy family of Rome. … he focused on how to save his soul. He lived in an age when the Christian West was shaken by the Protestant Reformation. While others around him were pursuing luxury and lascivious pleasures, he studied the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. St Macarius was grieved to see so many darkened by sin and worldly vanity, and was disturbed by the rebellions and conflicts within the Western Church. With tears, he asked God to show him the path of salvation, and his prayer did not go unanswered. He came to realize that he would find the safe harbor of salvation in the Orthodox Church. … Macarius came to the banks of the River Svir, where St Alexander of Svir (April 17 and August 30) had founded the monastery of the Holy Trinity. St Alexander received Macarius into the Orthodox Church and tonsured him as a monk.”
*Mark of Ephesus (January 19) [1392-6/23/1445] (propagandist who exploited ignorant monks and laity in order to undo the union achieved by the Ecumenical Council of Florence) – (1)
*Maximus the Greek of Russia (January 21) [1475-1556]: (1) “He wrote letters against Moslems, Roman Catholics, and pagans.”
*Moses Macinic of Bucharest (October 21) [†after 1752]: (1) “Moses Macinic was ordained to the holy priesthood in Bucharest around 1746, and worked to oppose the Unia. Because of his activities he was arrested and jailed in Sibiu for seventeen months.”
*Nectarios “the Wonderworker” of Aegina (November 9): (1) “Neither the Papist nor the Protestant church can be considered as the True church of Christ. The first was altered by a number of innovations and the accursed despotism (Primacy) due to which resulted the schism from the Orthodox.” (2) “All the more should this be happening now, when there is a discernible and lively interest on the part of the heterodox, particularly those of the West, in the Orthodox Church. But this gracious love which characterizes good zeal according to knowledge never forgets or overlooks the falsehood of heresy or who the heretics are, or, in this case, who the Pope of Rome is.”
*Nicholas of Lesvos (April 9) [†1463]: (1) “Raphael was one of the group of clerics of Constantinople who were against union [with the Pope] (including St. Mark Bishop of Ephesus, his brother John, George Scholarios, who later became the first Ecumenical Patriarch after the fall of Constantinople), as is shown by the stance he took when on December 12, 1452 the representative of the Pope Cardinal Isidoros I celebrated Divine Liturgy in the church of Hagia Sophia, during which the terms of the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) were read in the presence of the Emperor Constantine. … Raphael and Nicholas refused to attend, and the emperor punished them with exile to Aino.”
*Nicodemus of Mt. Athos (July 14) [1749-1809]: (1) “So, following what has been said, since the form of the Apostolical Canon demands it, we declare that the baptism of the Latins is one which falsely is called baptism, and for this reason it is not acceptable or recognizable either on grounds of rigorism or on grounds of economy.”
*Oprea of Salistie in Romania (October 21) [†1776]: (1) “Oprea Nicholas of Salistie suffered martyrdom in Romania at the hands of Roman Catholics in 1776.”
*Paisius Velichkovsky of Neamt (November 15) [1722-1794] – (1) “It is better to live in misery than to blaspheme the Holy Spirit as the Papists do. Get out, flee from uniatism as quickly as possible, that death does not surprise you in her womb, for then you would have the fate of heretics and not Christians” [Letter to Eastern Catholic Priest John qtd. in J. Georgesco, “Romania” in DTC 14.1:81]
*Raphael of Lesvos (April 9) [†1463]: (1) “Raphael was one of the group of clerics of Constantinople who were against union [with the Pope] (including St. Mark Bishop of Ephesus, his brother John, George Scholarios, who later became the first Ecumenical Patriarch after the fall of Constantinople), as is shown by the stance he took when on December 12, 1452 the representative of the Pope Cardinal Isidoros I celebrated Divine Liturgy in the church of Hagia Sophia, during which the terms of the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) were read in the presence of the Emperor Constantine. … Raphael and Nicholas refused to attend, and the emperor punished them with exile to Aino.”
*Sampson Sievers (August 24) [1898-1979]: (1) “Orthodoxy is such happiness, such riches! It alone teaches and provides all the paths to salvation. No Catholicism, no Protestantism, no other form of faith or denomination, gives that which the grace of the Holy Spirit gives through Holy Orthodoxy.”
*Seraphim “the Wonderworker” of Sarov (January 2) [1754-1833] – (1) “But if Father Seraphim spoke of the superiority of Orthodoxy to Old Ritualism, still more did he consider it superior to Roman Catholicism. ‘He urged us,’ we read in the Diveyev Chronicle, ‘to stand firmly for the truth of the dogmas of the Orthodox Church, giving as an example St. Mark of Ephesus who showed unshakable zeal in defense of the Eastern Catholic [Orthodox] faith at the Council of Florence. He himself gave various instructions on Orthodoxy, explaining its essence and stressing that it alone contained the truth of Christ’s faith in its integrity and purity. He also gave instructions as to how to defend it’“ [from Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, Saint Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography pp. 238-239]
*Sophronius of Ciorara (October 21) [†1761]: (1) “Seeing the persecution of the Orthodox by the Catholic authorities at that time, St Sophronius traveled through many villages of Ardeal, encouraging people to remain firm in the Orthodox Faith.”
*Theodosius (Prince Theodore of Ostrog) of the Kiev Caves (August 11): (1) “Theodore, Prince of Ostrozh, gained fame with the construction of churches and by his defense of Orthodoxy in Volhynia against the enroachment of Papism.” (2) “In 1410 St Theodore participated in the defeat of the Teutonic Knights of the Catholic Order at the Battle of Gruenwald. In 1422 the holy prince, because of sympathy for the Orthodox in Bohemia, supported the Hussites in their struggle with the German emperor Sigismund [Holy Roman Emperor 1433-1437].”
*Theodosius of Chernigov (February 5) [1630-1696]: (1) “The Kiev Brotherhood Theophany school was the chief center in the struggle of Orthodoxy against the assaults of Catholic clergy, particularly the Jesuits. … Archbishop Lazar told him to spare no effort in placing the Eletsy monastery in good order. This monastery had not yet been set aright after the expulsion of the Jesuits and Dominicans, and it was in great disorder. … He participated in drafting a conciliar reply to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow in response to his questions about the attitude of the Kiev Metropolitan See to the Council of Florence, and its judgment on the question of the transformation of the Holy Gifts as accepted by this Florentine Council.”
*Theophan the Recluse of Tambov (January 10) [1815-1894] – (1) As to the dogmatic teachings of the church and his view of Rome in general, he repeated the prejudices of his environment. To him, the Catholic church was just another sect terrorized by the Inquisition and a despotic pope who attributed to himself divine qualities“ (G. A. Maloney in NCE XIV:911)
*Tikhon of Lukhov (June 16) [†1503]: (1) “In the year 1482, not wanting to accept Uniatism, he went from Lithuania to Russia.”