Tag Archives: Eugene Bossilkov

Blessed Eugene Bossilkov,CP

We remember Blessed Eugene Bossilkov in the Passionist calendar November 13. A Bulgarian Passionist and bishop he was executed by the Communist regime November 11,1952 after being sentenced at a mock trial in Sophia, Bulgaria. His body was thrown into a lime pit outside the prison; as far as I know it has never been recovered.

His death was not confirmed to the outside world until 1975, when a Bulgarian minister visiting the Vatican was asked by Pope Paul VI what happened to Bishop Bossilkov. The minister confirmed the date and place of his execution. The Communist regime in Bulgaria was known at the time as perhaps the most brutal and secretive of all the Communist controlled countries of Eastern Europe.

Bishop Bosilkov was declared “Blessed” on March 15,1998 in Rome by Pope St. John Paul II, who said he was  “a splendid treasure of the church in his motherland. A brave witness of the cross of Christ; he is one of many victims sacrificed by atheistic Communism, in Bulgaria and elsewhere, as it attempted to annihilate the church. In those days of fierce persecution, many looked up to him and from his courageous example gained the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel to the end. I am happy on this joyful day for the nation of Bulgaria to honor so many, like Bishop Bossilhov, who paid with their lives for holding on to the faith they received at baptism.”

I attended Bishop Bossilkov’s beatification and what I recall most was not the impressive ceremonies at the Vatican but the Bulgarians who came for the occasion and stayed at our monastery of Saints John and Paul. They were relatives of the bishop and men and women from the church where he was bishop. Simple ordinary people who had come through hard times in a country emerging from Communism.

His niece, Sister Gabriella Bossilkov, was one of them. She knew him as a little girl; she was with him when he was arrested, attended his trial and visited him in prison before his execution. She described in great detail how they bullied him and lied about him; she remembered what he said when she told him in prison shortly before his death that they were trying to arrange for a pardon. “No,” he told us, “I know the Lord has given me his grace. I am willing to die.” 

She brought a blanket and baskets of food to him in prison the days before his death until one day the food basket was returned untouched. “He won’t need that any more,” she was told. When the prison guards finally said he had died and she demanded some proof, they gave her his blood stained shirt, which later at his beatification was the only relic that remained of him.

I’m sure his story will be told more fully when his canonization arrives. Politics and historical circumstances often delay the telling of a story like his. But it will be told. God reveals the glory of his saints, and Bishop Eugene Bossilkov is surely one of them, 

His niece said “I remember my uncle saying ‘The stains of our blood will guarantee a great future for the new church of Bulgaria.’”

Passionist Saints

Sign
 The Passionists, are a small and relatively new community in the Roman Catholic Church, but we have a good number of canonized saints and members proposed for canonization. Beginning with our founder, St. Paul of the Cross, who died in 1774, each generation of Passionists has produced men and women recognized for their holiness.

We’re hoping Father Theodore Foley who died in 1974 may join the ranks of Passionist saints such as Paul of the Cross, Vincent Strambi, Gabriel Possenti, Dominic Barberi, Gemma Galgani,  Charles Houben, Isidore DeLoor and Eugene Bossilkov.

Saints are God’s answer to the poison of their times, and it’s important to see them as they oppose it. Saints are firm believers and examples of heroic virtue. They’re signs of God’s power in a sinful world and God marks them out as saints through miracles performed through their intercession.

For example, St. Paul of the Cross was an antidote to the forgetfulness of the passion of Jesus which followed the Enlightenment, a 17th century movement that denied or minimized the role of faith and religion in human life. We’re still feeling the effects of the Enlightenment today.

St. Vincent Strambi opposed the Enlightenment as it was expressed in the political schemes of Napolean Bonaparte, who tried to subordinate religion to his own dreams of European domination. Vincent was a brave Italian bishop who resisted the emperor and suffered for it.  Like him, the Bulgarian Bishop Eugene Bossilkov suffered and died under an oppressive Communist government in Bulgaria in the 20th century.

Gabriel Possenti resisted the lure of the Enlightenment in the 19th century. As a young man, he chose religious life rather than the inflated promises of success that tempted so many of his contemporaries.

Saints like Gemma, Isidore de Loor, Charles Houben seem to be people who fit St. Paul’s description of those called by God. They were not wise by human standards, they don’t have a lot of human power, they’re not of noble birth. They’re “the weak of the world God chooses to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1, 23-28)

Our Passionist saints tend to be ordinary people, of no special note, easily unnoticed and misunderstood, subject to the sufferings, disappointments and failures that come in life. God chooses them to be signs that he does not abandon his people and, in fact, can do great things through them. Charles Houben was a healer. Gemma bore the signs of Jesus’ passion in her body.

It takes awhile to know saints like these. That may be because we often don’t understand our own times and the poison afflicting it.