It’s funny sometimes, how things come together. Last night, I was looking at some old posts on NEO, thinking about rerunning a few over Christmas. Some are mine, and some are Jess’. Two that really struck me were two of hers speaking about Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and his not all that favorable view of the west.
This morning I read in the Catholic Herald, from our friend Francis Phillips, about an interview on Radio Four with Irina Ratushinskaya. She was, as I’m sure few of you know, I hadn’t, sentenced to four years in the Soviet labor camps, mostly, I think, because she was a Christian. Well, make that present tense, because she still is.
Here is some of what Francis says.
By coincidence, I happened to visit the friend who had introduced me to Ratushinskaya on the evening of the morning I had heard the broadcast. We both listened to the interview again and I borrowed Ratushinskaya’s subsequent book, In the Beginning, about her life before her mock trial in 1982, from my friend’s book shelf.
It struck me how God can penetrate the most improbable places, such as the rigidly atheistic school environment in Odessa, where Ratushinskaya grew up in the early 1960s. Stalin might be dead but under his successor, Khrushchev, the penalty for anti-Soviet behaviour, such as writing religious poetry, was still extraordinarily harsh.
As a child Ratushinskaya started to pray, convinced that God existed because her teachers kept insisting that He didn’t. She understood almost instinctively that that only through religious faith would her soul “remain my own: nobody will be able to manipulate me.” Later she learnt that her grandmother had her secretly christened when she was a baby.
It struck me, as it seemed to strike Francis, as remarkable how in a society as aggressively atheistic as the Soviet Union, she still managed to think her way into Christianity, as did her husband. It’s also remarkable that they were able to find things like an Orthodox priest to marry them, and to soldier on, carrying the flame of Christ, now finally in the open.
What a remarkable story, do read the whole thing.
Nice topic. I just got a copy of “Diaries of the Chinese Martyrs: Stories of Heroic Catholics Living in Mao’s China” ed. by Gerolamo Fazzini. It is marvelous. I love the stories of the Saints and the Martyrs are my favorites. So much strength and courage in the face of adversity and opposition in every age until He comes again.
One passage in your essay struck me as very relevant in our current age: “the penalty for anti-Soviet behavior, such as writing religious poetry, was still extraordinarily harsh.” NEO, all you need do to make it relevant to our days, is a simple exchange of words from “anti-Soviet” to “anti-LGBTQ” in the same sentence and you find out some scary truths about our current Western temperament. It seems almost every day in the Church news from all sectors of our Western world you hear of another person undergoing legal harassment and even prosecution for anti-gay activities. Just look into the life of Prof. Jordan Peterson in Canada. Here is a link to just some of the commentary on his odyssey thus far. http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/canadas-boldest-professor-defies-gender-police
Yesterday I listened to Bishop Burbidge talk about St. Thomas More being a model for our future walk with Christ. Well, hello?!!??!? Gee, not rocket science to figure out where he expects the rubber to hit road soon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFk629IfFt4 We may very well be heading for a much closer resemblance to Christ then some are willing to hang in there for. I pray I am ready. I am and hope to face it as freely and as innocently as those who do get chosen to be as innocent as the Lamb we follow when led to the slaughter. God bless. Ginnyfree.
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No argument from me, Ginny. But four years in a Soviet camp is plenty bad. Amazing, isn’t it, how Sir thomas manages to be what we need at the time. An article in my backlog calls him : “A More for all Seasons”. Which denigrates him not at all, at least in my mind. An exemplar to follow.