Our week in St. Petersburg was a huge blessing for the team. We were able to experience the beauty and richness of the Orthodox church, the beauty of St. Petersburg itself, and the joy of spending time together as a team. Thanks to the talk given to us by Jennifer Healy in Austria about Eastern icons we were able to better appreciate the beauty of the churches we saw. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was a “crowd favorite”. It is a church whose art is completely made of beautifully crafted mosaics. Something we came to appreciate in the Orthodox Churches was the reverence for the mysteries of the faith and the reverence of their Divine Liturgy.
The buildings themselves in St. Petersburg were almost as beautiful as the Churches. No building was just built to be built. They are works of art that you find yourself captivated by as you walk the streets of the city. We were able to visit one magnificent building called the “Winter's Palace”, originally built for Empress Elizabeth Although we agreed that Empress Elizabeth was spoiled in the creation of this palace, we could not help but to be grateful to reap the benefits of her luxury as we soaked up the art and architecture of this massive palace. For this tour we were lead by a new friend of ours, Daria, who led us through the palace and told us things like, “all of the stairs are shorter in the palace and the same size so that the royal ladies would not trip down the stairs.”
Later that same day Daria introduced us to possibly our favorite place in St. Petersburg, “Pushki”. Simply put, Pushki sells heaven on a plate. They are “Russian donuts” that are akin to funnel cakes, but better. We easily could eat five each... and we did. The next day we went to Petrov Gardens where we experienced a whole other kind of luxury. There was gold everywhere and fountains at every turn. One of our favorite fountains was a sculpture of Samson fighting a lion. Our two Joes considered reenacting the depiction but then decided otherwise. We spent a beautiful but windy day there, took a boat back to Petersburg, and proceeded to then each ate five more Pushki.
Throughout the week we were blessed to attend Mass at St. Catherine's Catholic Church in St. Petersburg where Father Christoph said all of the Masses we were at. Although Mass was said in Russian and we understood next to none of what was said, we all agreed that the Fr. Christoph's homilies were some of the most inspiring ones we had ever heard. His enthusiasm for our faith and his love for the Lord were evident and spoke volumes. The presence of youth of the parish also gave us a great amount of hope for our Church and for Russia. We are extremely grateful for the generation of our sponsor that paid for the expenses of our trip to St. Petersburg. Now as we head to Magadan and our mission truly begins, please pray for us and for the Lord's Will to be done this summer. Be assured of our prayers for you as well.
Your Russia Mission Team, 2015