Friday, October 11, 2013

Anybody Read Russian?? More Providential "Coincidences"

"Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." - St. Seraphim of Sarov

I'm not Orthodox, I'm Catholic. I mean, I'm an Orthodox Catholic; don't get me wrong... but I'm not Orthodox.  Confused yet?

Well, ya should be!

The worldwide Church was probably pretty confused, too, around 1054.  That's when "the Great Schism" took place between Eastern and Western Christianity.  Largely political while throwing in some doctrinal points this rupture has some confusing history.  But first... Some cool, gigantic pictures! (for effect AND clarity)
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This is St. Seraphim of Sarov.  He was a miracle worker of the Russian Orthodox Church in the late 1700's/early 1800's.  And how do I know that? I looked it up on Wikipedia of course.  (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seraphim_of_Sarov)


Because, as you can clearly see, this thing is not in English.  

"Matt, why are you, a Catholic seminarian, posting about an Orthodox Saint?"

I'm glad you asked, reader.  Do you remember my previous post about the crazy, providential run in I had with that Priest in Ars this previous weekend?

"I sure do, Matt! I read all of your posts!"

Wow, thanks, reader! I wish I had more dedicated followers like you.  Well anyway, a long long time ago, on an airplane far far away (my flight over to Poland from America which was going to connect me to a flight into France on Sep 26th a few weeks ago... I hope that confusion is bubbling over now) I met a lady name Tamara, from Poland.  She was born Russian Orthodox.

"What's that mean, Matt?"

Well, I'm not entirely sure, but I'll share what I know soon.  Stop interrupting!

"Sorry, Matt."

It's ok... Now where was I? O yes, Tamara.  We sat next to each other on the plane over the pond and she shared how she was searching for the Truth in her life.  She had a Russian Orthodox background and clearly had faith in God.  She was going back to Poland to be with her dying mother.

We had a wonderful conversation about life and faith and, at the end of the trip, she handed me a prayer card which had a Russian Orthodox Saint on it named St. Tamara! This, too, was all in Russian.  In exchange I have her a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a "miraculous medal" of Mary and we parted ways.  I think it's what any faithful, Catholic seminarian would do.  (Her son apparently wants to become an Orthodox Priest so that's pretty cool, too.)

I arrived in France that night and met a Catholic religious sister (think "nun") who is associated with our community (Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist) in some way.  They (Fr. Sean actually) told me that she goes over to Russia frequently to work with the Russian Orthodox people.

"Crazy coincidence, Matt!"

I know! So I handed her the prayer card and asked her to translate.  She doesn't speak much English so I don't think she understood me but she was very surprised that it was St. Tamara who was depicted.

"Why, Matt?"

Because Sister's name is "Sister Tamara!"

"Wooooaaaahhhhh!!!"

So I gave her the prayer card and asked her to also pray for the Tamara I met on the plane. Those were the first two Tamaras I've ever met in my life within a span of 10-12 hours or so.

"Wooooaaaahhhhh!!!"

So I pray for Tamara and have a new Saint to pray to: St. Tamara. Though I don't have her prayer card anymore.  I'm sure she understands.
Today, some Russian Orthodox people came and gave our community some crunchy crouton-like bread in what looked like a Christmas stocking, some out of this world chocolate, and the icon pictured above.  The community decided to give it to me.

"But it's not St. Tamara..."

That's not the point! These encounters have reminded me of the great need to pray for unity in the Church and has opened my heart more (hopefully) to the Orthodox who are so close in faith to the Catholic Church.  After the schism in 1054 between east and west, various segments of these Orthodox groups came back into full communion with the Catholic Church.  In fact, there isn't just one way to be Catholic (Roman Catholic) - there's 22! (like the Byzantine Catholics, the Syro-Malabar Catholics etc. all in doctrinal communion with the Bishop of Rome (da Pope!) who is the visible head of the universal, Catholic Church. (The Orthodox, Protestants, etc disagree but that's beside the point, too)

We need to pray for unity!  St. Seraphim (not only honored by the Orthodox but also by Catholics as Pope John Paul II mentions him in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope - thanks Wikipedia!) is a great Saint and now a new friend of mine (along with St. Tamara, the Polish lady Tamara, and Sister Tamara.)  St. Seraphim has a great quote:

"Acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands will be saved."

"Why is that, Matt?"

I think because, ultimately, real peace is a sense of unity with those around us.  When we have true peace within - I mean God's peace in Christ - it makes others around us say "Why are you that way?" And those thousands of people around us will be able to catch fire with the same peace which radiates from our hearts because when they experience it in us they'll say

"I want that."  

Then we'll introduce them to Jesus, the Prince of Peace...

And thousands will be saved.

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Now can anybody read Russian??