Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Josaphat, Confessor, and Saint Barlaam, Anchorite

engraving of Saint Barlaam working to convert Saint Josaphat; the stone is emblematic of faith; 1680 by Russian artist, name unknown; swiped off Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Josaphat was the only son of a pagan king, named Abenner, who was a protector of idolatry and an arch-enemy of the Christians. Fearing that his son might become a convert to the Christian faith, and uproot idolatry in his kingdom, he erected an immense palace wherein the young prince was educated, without being allowed to put his foot outside the walls, so as to prevent the possibility of his hearing anything of the Christian religion. Those who served him were strictly forbidden to mention the faithful or their religion to him. Meanwhile the prince was instructed in several branches of knowledge and zealously kept to the worship of the false gods. The plurality of gods early became an object of distrust to the prince, and he often sought to discover the reason of his close confinement. One of the most confidential servants one day told him the cause of it, and thus greatly raised his curiosity to learn something of the Christian faith, which his father thought so dangerous. A deep melancholy took possession of him, and when the king desired to know the cause of his sadness, Josaphat replied, without hesitation, that the cause was that others had the liberty to come to the palace and leave it again, while he was not allowed to put his foot outside the gates. The father, fearing to lose his son by an early death, allowed him to amuse himself outside the palace, but gave strict orders to his attendants to prevent any Christian from addressing him, and to keep out of his sight all beggars, and sick or deformed persons. Careful as the prince’s attendants were to obey the king’s command, still they could not prevent a few old and deformed persons from being among the crowd of people, whom curiosity to see the heir to the throne naturally attracted. Josaphat, from whom all the miseries of life, and all the infirmities of age had been kept secret, and whose eyes had never rested save on youth and health, desired to know what men those were, and why their aspect was so different from his. The answer he received gave him his first knowledge of the frailty of human nature, and impressed him with his first idea of death. This awakened in him an intense desire to obtain a master who could explain all this to him, and who could especially inform him of the principles of Christianity. God granted his wish. In the desert of Senaar lived a venerable and holy hermit, named Barlaam. to whom God revealed the prince’s desire, with the command to go and instruct him in Christianity. Barlaam obeyed, came to India, and was announced to the prince as a merchant who had rare jewels to sell. He was admitted, desired to speak to the prince alone, and revealed to him the command he had received to bring him the precious treasure of the true faith. The prince, greatly rejoicing, was, without delay, instructed in the Christian religion, and a few days later received holy baptism. This event, however, soon became known, as the prince could not conceal his happiness after he was baptized. Barlaam would have been seized, but he had already fled. Araches, a courtier full of wiles and cunning, advised the king to order an old idolatrous priest, named Nachor, who was thoroughly instructed in the Christian faith, to pretend that he was Barlaam, and to dispute about the gospel, in the presence of the king and prince, with the most learned idolatrous priests. Nachor was to confess himself vanquished, acknowledge that he was wrong, and renounce the Christian faith. This would surely be an easy way to bring the prince back to the worship of the idols. The king was pleased with this plan, but God guided everything in such a manner that Nachor, who only pretended to confess Christianity, and who, according to the courtier’s plan, was to be persuaded by the arguments of the others to renounce it, became, on the contrary, convinced of its truth, defended it in earnest, and with his whole heart, and silenced all his opponents. He then informed the prince of the wicked design, became a zealous Christian, and retired into a desert, where he lived a holy life till his end. As the king had not succeeded in this plan, Theudas, a magician, proposed another still more wicked. Theudas advised him to give the prince none but women to wait on him, and among these a slave, who was by birth a royal princess, and was endowed with extraordinary beauty. All these persons were commanded to use every effort to spoil the young prince, so that, when he had lost his innocence, he would easily be brought to abandon the Christian faith. The father consented to use this wicked means, and Josaphat, until now so pure and chaste, was tormented day and night by Satan, and by those whom Satan used as his instruments. One day, when very near falling into the snares that were laid for him, a heavenly light suddenly illumined his head, so that, tearing himself from danger, he went into his room, prostrated himself upon the ground, and called on God for aid, until he was overtaken by sleep. In his dream, he saw a most beautiful garden on one side, and on the other, a horrible dungeon filled with flames, while he heard the words: “This is the dungeon for those who have soiled their souls with lust.” He awoke and was so frightened and felt so great a disgust for all those who were tempting him to sin, that he became dangerously sick. The king hastened to him and wished to know the cause of this sudden illness. “You are the cause of it, my father;” said he, “you are killing me. If the Almighty had not graciously assisted me, I should have fallen into sin, and hence into eternal perdition.” He added that he would rather lose his life than forsake Christianity. “If, therefore,” he said, “you do not wish to become the murderer of your own child, free me from these attendants, and leave me unmolested in the practice of my faith.” Although the father was pained by these words, he would not give way; but again called Theudas, who promised to change the prince’s thoughts by his eloquence and witchcraft. He was brought to the prince, but the issue differed greatly from his expectations; for, although he used all his powers, he changed not the prince, but was himself so completely changed, that he not only renounced idolatry and magic, but thenceforward led a solitary life, occupied only with his salvation. When at length the king saw that his plans did not succeed, he came to the resolution no longer to torment the prince. To make him forget the trials through which he had passed, he gave him half his kingdom, with unrestricted power to rule over it. Josaphat would have preferred to serve God in a desert; but the hope of introducing the Christian faith among his subjects made him accept his fathers offer. And, in truth, Josaphat acted rather the apostle than the king in his dominions; for, with the aid of priests whom he invited for this purpose, he converted his subjects, founded several churches, and almost entirely abolished idolatry. Abenner, the king, at last desired to be instructed in the Christian faith, received baptism, and gave to Josaphat, who now was dearer to him than ever, the government of the entire land. He lived four years after his conversion, and closed his life peacefully in his son’s arms. Josaphat remained several years longer at the head of the government, but afterwards resigned it in favor of a very wise and noble lord, called Barachius, who was also a pious Christian. He himself went into the desert to his beloved master, Barlaam, and led an austere and holy life, until God called him away. His holy body was brought back later, and buried in a church which he had founded. The Almighty, who had so wisely protected him during his life, made him glorious after his death by many miracles. His history is circumstantially related by Saint John of Damascus.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Josaphat was interiorly tempted to sin by Satan, and exteriorly by unchaste slaves; but combating bravely, he conquered. Neither hell nor man can force you to sin. Fight valiantly; for man is strong when the grace of God sustains him. But in order to obtain this grace, he must pray as Josaphat did. Therefore, Christ Himself admonishes us: “Watch ye and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” (Matthew 26) “When temptation assails us, let us cry to God for help,” says Saint Augustine. “If we do not wish to be conquered by Satan, we must fly for refuge to Him who vanquished hell.” Hence, pray every morning, that the Lord may keep far from you all dangerous temptations, or if, in His wisdom, He permits them, to give you grace and strength to overcome them. When you are tempted to do wrong during the day, turn immediately, with a short prayer, to the Almighty, and say with David: “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me.” (Psalm 69) “Keep thou my soul and deliver me.” (Psalm 24) Or say with Saint Peter, when, as he was walking on the water, he began to sink: “Lord save me.” (Matthew 14)

• Saint Josaphat saw, in his sleep, hell and the torments of the unchaste, which awakened in him such abhorrence for the vice of unchastity, that every impure thought forever left him. Should unchaste thoughts torment you, descend with them immediately into hell, and consider the torments that there await the sinner. Think of the terrible fire, the horrible stench, the awful darkness, the tormenting hunger and thirst, and all the other pains which its inhabitants suffer. Then say to yourself: In this dungeon so many thousands are burning in consequence of their debauchery. They are tormented here, during all eternity; and I shall suffer as they do, without end, if I sin against chastity, and die in this sin. Shall I then, for a short and infamous pleasure, cast myself into this dreadful dungeon, and condemn myself for evermore? The pleasure I seek is short and will soon pass away; but the torments are terrible that await me, and they last for ever. If you consider this seriously, it will be impossible for you to give ear to temptations and offend the Almighty. “If you are tempted to unchastity, think of the fire in hell,” says Saint Bernard. “When the fire of impurity commences to burn, oppose to it the fire of hell, and it will soon be extinguished,” says Saint Chrysostom.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Josaphat, Confessor, and Saint Barlaam, Anchorite”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 May 2018. Web. 16 December 2018. <>