January 23, Bls Vincent (Wincenty) Lewoniuk and Companions, Martyrs of Pratulin

January 23
BLESSED VINCENT LEWONIUK and COMPANIONS, MARTYRS of PRATULIN
Optional memorial
In the Diocese of Siedlce – Obligatory memorial

Blessed Vincent Lewoniuk and 12 Companions were members of the Uniate Church that had been created under the Union of Brest in 1596. They died martyrs’ death on 24 January 1874 at the hands of Russian soldiers, who, on behalf of the tsar, wanted to force them to join the Orthodox Church. The martyrs of Pratulin laid down their lives defending the faith and unity of the Church. Pope John Paul II declared them blessed in Rome on 6 October 1996.

Common of Several Martyrs.

[PDF Version]

OFFICE OF READINGS

SECOND READING

From the report by Fr Teodor Telakowski to bishop J. Stupnicki
(The Archive of the Sacred Congregation for the Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, Russia and Poland 1872-1877, pos 352, fac 47-74 [Polish manuscript])
They died in God and with God for the faith

On 24 January 1874 a terrible disaster occurred in Pratulin in the district of Konstantynów in Podlasie. The pastoral care of that parish was taken by Fr Józef Kurmanowicz, who, along with other priests, had been imprisoned in Siedlce for several weeks. The people, bidding farewell to their pastor, who was being deported from the parish, sensed that plight was to come. They fell to their knees before him, begging him to bless them for the last time. The people and their priest, both in tears, split up, perhaps forever. The blessing was administered with a shaking hand as the words had stuck in the pained chest. God in heaven accepted them.

The administration of the parish was handed to a young priest from Galicia – Fr Leonty Urban – who lived in his parish in the neighbouring town of Krzyczew. He wanted to introduce the Orthodox liturgy to the Uniate church. The Uniates of Pratulin shut their temple and took the keys. Fr Urban informed the authorities. On 24 January the head of the district arrived from Janów with the soldiers under the command of a German officer Stein.

Kutanin, the head, evoked various arguments in order to convince the people to hand their temple to the new parish priest selected by the authorities without breaking the peace. His whole eloquence fell through.

Then Stein said that the assembly should convert to the Orthodox faith, but now they ought to disperse so as not to disturb the peace. They began to question him, “What is your name?”. “My name is Stein,” he said. “What is your faith?” “I am a Lutheran,” he replied. So they told him, “All right then, you convert to the Orthodox faith so that we know what a traitor looks like.” Stein said nothing, but ordered the soldiers to charge at the defenders. They clustered around the church to protect it, lifting the sticks found nearby in a militant way. The soldiers gave in, thinking of the losses. The people stood unmoved on the square.

Stein ordered to load the rifles with bullets. The believers threw the pegs and stones they were holding. They fell to their knees as one man and started to sing Polish pious songs: “Holy God,” and then the Psalm “You who dwell in the shelter.” Stein shouted, “Fire!” The bullets showered them. Some peasants dropped dead. The heads of the injured bent. The singing continued nonetheless. The soldiers stood in a semicircle behind the fence of the cemetery, firing away. The first to die was Vincent Lewoniuk. At the same time the young Anicetus Hryciuk from the village of Zaczopki got killed. An elderly man, standing by, lifted his body and, ceasing to sing for a moment, called, “You have already produced meat, but you can still have more, for we are all ready to die for our faith.” The fire lasted more than 10 minutes.

People stood quite close to the troops and were squeezed tightly. The number of victims would have been higher for sure if some soldiers, out of compassion, had not fired in the air. Not a single groan could be heard from the dying; nor a swear word tarnished the lips of the injured. All died in God and with God for the faith, which comes from God as a gift.

When the fire ceased, nine dead bodies were left on the square. Four other badly hurt people died on the same day. They were all buried in the same grave.[1]

RESPONSORY

We are warriors now, fighting on the battlefield of faith, and God see all we do; the angels watch and so does Christ.
What honour and glory and joy, to do battle in the presence of God, and to have Christ approve our victory.

Let us arm ourselves in full strength and prepare ourselves for the ultimate struggle with blameless hearts, true faith and unyielding courage.
What honour and glory and joy, to do battle in the presence of God, and to have Christ approve our victory.

MORNING PRAYER

CANTICLE OF ZECHARIAH

Ant. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

CONCLUDING PRAYER

O almighty and eternal God,
you let Blessed Vincent and his Companions participate in Christ’s passion,
grant mercifully that we may persistently imitate their martyrdom in confessing the Catholic faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum. Probatum seu confirmatum, die 30 septembris 1996. Prot. 1204/96/L et die 26 maii 1998. Prot. 2471/96/L.

[1] Translated by DChojnacki (2016).

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