Can I tell you a quick story?
I walked into the Church after my Poustinia (24 hours spent in prayer at a hermitage), and saw many people talking: Russian kids, American missionaries, young adults, and adults all talking and laughing and playing games. Two teenage Russian boys showed up when everyone else was leaving--they were about three hours late. But we were overjoyed to see them and all the guys had some food and then watched a movie. It was a community, a family.
The Russian youth here in Magadan are drawn into our family of faith like a magnet. The words of Christ ring in my heart, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25). My call to Russia is a call to console the Heart of Jesus who is suffering in the poor and broken. When we console these youth, we console Christ.
During dinner, the team sometimes reads Redemptoris Missio by Pope Saint John Paul II, and we were recently reminded that any fruit we experience on mission is due to the army of prayer warriors back home. Here is a short passage from the chapter on Cooperation in Missionary Activity.
“All Christians share responsibility for missionary activity...They pray for the missions and missionary vocations. They help missionaries and follow their work with interest...Among the forms of sharing, first place goes to spiritual cooperation through prayer, sacrifice and the witness of Christian life...Prayer needs to be accompanied by sacrifice...The sacrifice of missionaries should be shared and accompanied by the sacrifices of all the faithful.” (Ch. VII)
Father Michael told us today that we cannot change anyone’s heart, that is something only Christ can do. All we can do is throw seeds and then water them with prayer. In this last week of mission, we are focusing on watering the seeds that have been thrown. We have re-doubled our prayer efforts. In few days, we are doing an all-night vigil before the Blessed Sacrament as well as starting another novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.
Please join us in this final radical push to water the seeds that have been thrown.
Joseph Rooney and the Mission to Magadan Team
We continue teaching English as a second language to youths and adults, and this has become the base of our ministry – Father Michael has told us that these are the people given to us by the Lord, and we can all feel the truth of this as we begin to form relationships. The kids are especially dear to our hearts – Father explained to us his vision for The Church of the Nativity is for it to be an island of hope: a place we people come and encounter Love, a place where they are treated with the dignity of a human person, a place set apart from the city of Magadan that they live in. Besides the English Clubs getting people just to walk into the church (where there is little possibility otherwise), our main classroom for English Club is the cry room - so through English Club the people of Magadan are placed in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ Eucharistic. We all trust that being so near Our Lord can do great things. Father Michael is a true expert missionary priest. All of us missionaries have been inspired by the reality Father Michael brings to his zeal for souls – he is so practical and (I’d even say) sneaky with ways to bring souls to Christ.
Father Michael seeks out the lost sheep, as well as protecting and feeding the flock he has like only a priest with Christ living in him can. At the end of June, Father had worked with a Polish priest to put on a nine day retreat for his parishioners. The polish priest, Father Peter, has a formation program called School of Mary. The parishioners were at the church all weekend for two weekends in a row along with coming every week day night. There was Holy Mass everyday, then dinner, a talk and prayer, as well as time for adoration and confession. Father Peter came with a sister from his same order whose name is Sister Edith, who helped lead the conference and gave a few talks. Two American sisters working in Russia also came to the parish to attend the conference as well as one Ukrainian sister who spoke decent English. The religious coming was an immense gift to us and a spring of joyful fellowship, the team fell in love with these brides of Christ. During the conference, we are in charge of two things: feeding the religious (breakfast and lunch), and washing dishes. All this took significantly more time than one would ever assume, but we can now say that we are all efficient in dish washing management techniques!
The conference ended and we said goodbye to the beautiful sisters and then went on a hike. Given the longitudinal location of Magadan and the time of year, we experienced what the locals refer to as “White Night.” On June 26, the sun only goes down for 2 hours. We decided to use this awesome phenomenon to our advantage and took off hiking at 9 pm to climb a nearby mountain in full daylight. We reached the top around 11 pm and watched the sun set, then after an unexpected trailblazing experience and the sunrise we made it down the mountain about 3 hours later, while making our way back to the church we said a Divine Mercy Chaplet during the other 3 o’clock hour. It was totally wicked and featured many a silly songs with Benedict Willey and Joshua Fish, improv sledding, Lord of the Rings reenactments, and quality team bonding. As well as being struck with awe at the beauty of this created world.
In other fun news, we took a day trip to a lovely Russian Village about an hour from Magadan, where there is a beautiful Orthodox Church. When you walk in it feels as join the communion of saints in heaven, the mystery of the Mass is preserved. Father talked to us about how the Orthodox Church can teach us in this way, and how a unity between us fits. He explained to us that many Orthodox believers will only receive communion once a year if that because a strict three day fast, and confession is required to communicate. Father set this up as a stark contrast between the Catholic Church which receives like an assembly line. Both are sacrilege to Our Precious Savior Jesus Hostia, (the East refusing the gift and the West taking the gift for granted, forgetting it is a gift) but a beauty can be seen in a unification of these to extremes. When we were in Moscow we met with a man named Alexandre Havard, leadership Guru and member of Opus Dei, who has a heart for Russia. Alexandre Havard discussed how Russia by her nature and history is in many ways the answer to the problems of the west; his vision is guided by the Pope Saint John Paul II and his “Russian Doctrine” that Havard summarizes in to three points in his book My Russian Way, which is what I would like to leave you with.
1. The greatness of Russia, her specific contribution to the spiritual well-being of humanity, is linked to the Byzantine-Slav cultural and religious tradition, whose foundations were laid by Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century. To Latinize Russia would be to render her sterile. This would condemn the universal Church to a morbid provincialism and impede the achievement of Christian unity.
2. The Church, by tradition, compromises two great cultural forms – Eastern and Western – that complement each other like two lungs in the same organism. Western culture is more logical and rational; Eastern culture is more mystical and intuitive. “The world has always been divided into two parts – the East and the West,” writes Piotr Chadaaev, whom John Paul II studied in detail. “In the East, the human spirit is formed by concentrating on itself, by being enclosed in itself. In the West, it is developed by leaving itself, by surging forth from all sides, overcoming all exterior obstacles.”
3. The separation of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is a great sin, but Divine Providence has permitted this separation so as to extract from it’s a superior good; to allow the Church of Christ to discover within herself all the human and divine richness of the Incarnation and The Redemption.
“More generally, we can affirm that for human knowledge and human action a certain dialectic is present,” writes John Paul II. “Did not the Holy Spirit, in His divine ‘condescendence,’ take this into consideration? It is necessary for humanity to achieve unity through plurality, to learn to come together in the one Church, even while presenting a plurality of ways of thinking and acting, of cultures and civilizations. Wouldn’t such a way of looking at things be, in a certain sense, more consonant with the wisdom of God, with His goodness and providence? Nevertheless, this cannot be a justification for the divisions that continue to deepen! The time must come for the love that unites us ti be manifested!”
In Jesus Hostia,
Erin and the Magadan Mission Team