Monday, March 22, 2010

The Station of the Betrayed and Enslaved

O Merciful Lord Jesus, Our Savior, hear the prayers and petitions of Your unworthy sinful servants who humbly call upon You and make us all to be one in Your one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Flood our souls with Your unquenchable light. Put an end to religious disagreements, and grant that we Your disciples and Your beloved children may all worship You with a single heart and voice. 
Fulfill quickly, O grace-giving Lord, your promise that there shall be one flock and one Divine Shepherd of Your Church; and may we be made worthy to glorify Your Holy Name now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
– Bl. Leonid Fedorov

The Station of the Betrayed and Enslaved
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine
Youngstown, OH

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

   My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? 
   My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
   Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
   In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them.
To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. Ps 22:2-6

Religion in Communist Russia was persecuted openly beginning in the 1920s. Elaborately staged show trials where the verdict had already been reached were conducted all around the Soviet Union to further repress faith among the Russian people. Priests and bishops were arrested, imprisoned and sometimes executed. Churches were looted and torn down, statues and icons destroyed.

The Russian Orthodox Church was compromised early on; patriarchs and priests were promised freedom for attempting to persuade Byzantine and Roman Catholics to break with Rome. Those who didn't willingly support the regime were either threatened or were killed and replaced with an imposter. Soviet authorities offered a choice: renounce Rome and be spared or lose everything and be arrested. Few Catholics took the bait, and eventually the Orthodox Church was targeted, as were all religions, and they were turned over to the state like the rest. These same tactics were exercised in every nation overtaken by the USSR. It was a methodical exercise with one sole purpose: to destroy faith.

* * * * * * *

Blessed Leonid Feodorov was one of many faithful who continued to live, teach and preach the Catholic faith in prison and exile, was one of the few who spoke on his own behalf at his own show trial prior to his 10-year sentence. In his book The Forgotten: Catholics in the Soviet Empire from Lenin through Stalin, Fr. Christopher Lawrence Zugger describes the scene:

Dressed in the traditional Russian black cassock, with his long hair a beard often described as 'Christ-like', Feodorov was a man of the narod, of the ordinary Russian people for whom the Revolution had been fought. His presence put the lie to the usual description of Catholicism as 'the Polish religion.' His presentation -- a moving testimony of Russian spirituality and the history of the Church in that country -- evoked the best of Russian Christendom. He pointed out that Greek-Catholics greeted the Revolution with joy, for only then did they have equality. There was no secret organization, they had simply followed Church law. Religious education, the celebration of Mass, and the administration of the Sacraments of marriage and baptism had to be fulfilled. He pointed out that the Church, accused of having neglected the starving, was at that moment feeding 120,00 children daily. Following a scathing rebuttal by Krylenko, Exarch Feodorov rose for his final remarks: "Our hearts are full, not of hatred, but of sadness. You cannot understand us, we are not allowed liberty of conscience. That is the only conclusion we can draw from what we have heard here."*

Liberty of conscience--isn't this the point of contention between faith and secularism?
Do I realize the price of state-determined morality, particularly when it opposes Church teaching?
The US just passed a monumental health care bill that OUR BISHOPS have vocally opposed. They now lay fallen beneath this cross, as do all who follow them.
Do I lie beneath this cross as well, or have I traded in my cross for the easy path of secularism?
How can I help to lift this heavy cross and carry it for the Lord?

Lord Jesus, as Leonid Fedorov and so many of your faithful fell under the weight of oppression, You were with them. Even as they were taken to prison, they never lost sight of the truth. Help us to remain fixed on the truth, even when we fall, and to get back up and continue to evangelize.

   But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
   All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me:
   "You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you."  Ps 22:7-9

To be a disciple is to press on under tremendous weight.

Blessed Leonid Fedorov, pray for us.


*Zugger, Christopher Lawrence. The Forgotten: Catholics in the Soviet Empire from Lenin through Stalin. University of Syracuse Press, 2001. p. 186.

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