This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27 -- Feast of Saint Josaphat

Siddhartha? An earlier incarnation of Jesus?  Saint Josaphat?
Do y'all know the story of Siddhartha Gautama, also called Shakyamuni, also called The Buddha?  The date of his birth is uncertain, and subject to much debate, but he seems to have been born in northern India (maybe Nepal) between the fourth and sixth centuries BCE.  According to the legends about him, his dad was aware of a prophecy that he would either be a great king or a great holy man.  His dad, a great king in his own right, tried to choose for his son by shutting him up in a citadel and giving him the proper education for a warrior king.  Siddhartha married, had a child, and then experienced a conversion moment when he discovered poverty, old age, sickness, and death.  He renounced his worldly life and went on a quest to find an end to suffering.  After much contemplation, he announced the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, the core of the Buddhist faith.  According to, the number of Buddhists worldwide is generally estimated at 350,000,000 -- about 6% of the world's population. 

If you're not wondering what this has to do with Saint Josaphat, you are either:
  • not paying attention to what you are reading;
  • not a naturally curious person; 
  • exceptionally well informed about Christian syncretism.  Okay, plagiarism.  
A Buddha of Bamiyan, destroyed by the Taliban
A zealous Christian, perhaps hoping to facilitate the conversion of Buddhists to Christianity, reinvented Siddhartha as Saint Josaphat.  Like Sidd, Jo's dad (King Abenner) hears a prophecy that his son will convert to Christianity.  [Remember that Thomas Judas Didymus brought the faith to India in the first century of the common era.]  Abenner shut his son up in the palace and set about suppressing Christianity.  Barlaam the Hermit slipped into the palace and converted Josaphat, who in turn tried to convert his dad.  After some struggle, Abenner relented, accepted baptism, abdicated in favor of his son, and became a hermit.  King Josaphat ruled wisely for a while and then also abdicated, sought out Barlaam, and joined him in his hermitage. 

Lest we think this is a one-way street to shanghai(ed deity), some Mahayana Buddhists accept Jesus as one of the Bodhisattvas (enlightened souls that voluntarily reincarnate to show others the path to salavation). 

I was driving on Route 1 in May of 1988, giving someone a ride north, and he told me that we should embrace -- enjoy, even -- shameless rip-offs.  They are troubling in big ways, not least of which is that they erode the credibility of the propagators.  And yet, syncretism is one path toward peace, toward a universal tolerance in which everyone can find a spot.  Given the choice between hijacking the Buddha story or blowing up ancient sculptures in an iconoclastic pique (a false choice, I know),  I'll take the shameless rip-off.  Hell, I'll even enjoy it. 

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