February 5 – Theodosius of Chernigov and Gonsalo Garcia

Icon of Theodosius of Chrernigov, early 20th centuryTheodosius of Chernigov (d. 1696), despite the fact that the 1640s were not the best time to leave the relative safety of Podolsk (near Moscow) to go to seminary in Kiev, did just that. Poland and the Cossacks were having a polite disagreement about which of them should rule Kiev (final answer: neither), and the seminary was closed before Theodoius could graduate. We hope he didn’t pay all his tuition in advance. He spent a whirlwind decade or two between Kiev and Chernigov, being made in turn a monk, archdeacon, priest, and igumen* (twice). Finally in 1664 he settled down and restored the Vydubitsky monastery, long abandoned under Polish rule. He especially loved the music of the services, and sent his choir to Moscow to teach Kievan chant to the natives. The workshop was sold out for weeks in advance, and the few rare tchotchkes that show up on eBay these days cost a fortune[1].

He and several other igumens* were accused of treason, and he was called to defend himself before somebody or other (sources are schtum on whom), but in the end he was vindicated. We’re not told, and it would be indecorous to ask, if the false accusers got their comeuppance (dang it). Later he delivered news to Moscow of the Kievan synod’s vote for its new Metropolitan, and the visit resulted in the restoration of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate. (This meant increased revenues for Moscow, but many more copies of the monthly newsletter had to be printed and mailed. It may have come out even.) Later still he hand-delivered a letter to the Patriarch to smooth out an unpleasant theological kerfuffle. Among and around all this he managed to lead his monastery, developing a reputation for piety and loving care for his monks. In 1692 he was made Archbishop of Chernigov, and after four short years spent founding monasteries and rejecting substandard applicants to the priesthood, he fell asleep in the Lord.

Stained glass window of Gonsalo Garcia, from the St. Patrick's Cathedral, Pune, IndiaGonsalo Garcia (1556–1597) (aka Gundislavas) was born in Bassein (in Portuguese India) to a Portuguese father and an Indian mother. While very young he purposed to become a missionary, and pestered the local priest about it for years. Finally at age 15 he was allowed to go to Japan, learning Japanese from a native on the trip over. Once ashore he worked for the Jesuits as a lay catechist. His kindness and fluency in Japanese won him great love and respect, especially among the children. When the Jesuits finally denied him membership on account of his mother’s race, he moved to another city and became a merchant.

He rapidly grew wealthy and well-connected, but still he yearned for the ministry, and after a time he closed up shop and joined the Franciscans, conveniently located in nearby (kof) Manila. He worked briefly among the Japanese diaspora there, then found himself heading back to Japan to serve as a translator for a religious and diplomatic delegation. Things were going well for the Franciscans (the Japanese Jesuits were having some trouble but this isn’t their story, and besides they had rejected our hero because of his mother’s ancestry, so pbbth) when disaster struck. A Spanish treasure ship ran aground in a storm, and the captain, in talking with the customs officials, bragged about the many nations that Spain had conquered. “And get this,” he said. “We always send in missionaries first to soften the place up.”

This had exactly the effect you would have thought. When word reached the Emperor, he had all the missionaries and many native converts—26 in all—rounded up and marched to Nagasaki (600 miles from Gonsalo’s home), where they became the Martyrs of Nagasaki. (I won’t go into details; trust me.) Thus it was that in 1862, Gonsalo Garcia, half Portuguese, missionary to the Philippines and Japan, was canonized as the first Catholic saint of India. Is that international, or what? He is patron of both his hometown and Mumbai.


[1] I made up the tchotchkes. But isn’t that a fun word?