In these difficult times in our country and in our families, when fathers are losing jobs and events around us are causing societal turmoil, we might consider a true story told by Archbishop Thaddaeus Kondrusiewicz.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was the Archbishop of Moscow. Some years ago, I met the archbishop at a Marian conference in South Dakota, sponsored by the wonderful priest Father Robert Fox, recently deceased. Over the years, Father Fox led pilgrimages to Fatima for thousands of teens. Many teens’ lives were changed after spending several days on retreat in Fatima, where the Blessed Mother appeared to three little children: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco.
The following are the words of the holy archbishop:
The year is 1917. The specter of Communism which had haunted Europe for decades finds a home in Russia. The sacred city of Moscow, a city of 1600 churches and chapels, becomes the source of a current of atheism that attempts to inundate, not only the former Russian empire,but the whole world.
Power is wielded by people who claim that they will build a paradise on earth, but unfortunately, they begin building it without God. There begins a terrible persecution of the Church. Many bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, as well as lay faithful and people of good will, paid with their lives for their faith in the Church and in Christ. Churches and monasteries were demolished, devastated, converted to factories and offices.
The enlightened Communist future held no place for God and the Church.
A land that had been baptized over nine centuries ago, a land traditionally devoted to God and the Mother of God, a land known as “Holy Russia,” which supported the existence and activities of the Catholic Church, this land was as it were, crucified. A dark night of persecution descended on this land.
But God’s providential care was not absent, even at that moment so terrible for history and for the East. In His infinite mercy, God did not forget Russia. In that fateful year of 1917, at the other end of Europe, in Fatima, was heard the voice of the Mother of God. She spoke words of warning, but also of hope: “The Church will be persecuted. Russia will extend the errors of its ways to the world. But in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph, and Russia will be converted.”
In spite of persecution, people chose God. And the Faith survived. I, myself, and other young bishops and priests, we believe that what happened, happened only because of very strong Faith in our families. Every day, our families had common daily prayers, all together: father, mother, and children. In our houses, very often were icons of the Holy Family, with special dedication and prayers to protect the entire family.
The imprisoned people of Russia persevered in prayer in their homes, in the camps of the gulag, in the steppes of Kazakhstan. There were no priests, no churches, no religious publications, no catechization—but there were families, families strong in their faith. There were rosaries clutched in the hands of the Faithful. There was devotion to the Blessed Mother. And there was the Message of Fatima. This Message held the promise and the hope of a better future.
Besides the icons, the rosaries, and the medals, there was something else. When the Communists took over, they used bulldozers to destroy the church buildings. The churches became piles of bricks. But families would go out in the dark of night and take a brick from the pile of their former church. They would put the brick of their church in their home in a special place which became the center of their family worship. While they could not have Mass, they would say the prayers of the Mass and the prayers after Mass, and their rosary. This brick represented their Church in their home, in their family.
Each Catholic Russian home was truly a “Domestic Church.”
These and other examples of religious life are a testament that despite extreme hardships, Faith survived in the families of Russia. Today, that Family Faith is paying dividends. Russia is awakening to a new spiritual life.
Our home schooling homes, called Domestic Churches by the popes, will ultimately result in a reawakening of our Catholic Church and our nation to a new spiritual life. The Domestic Church, the Church of the Home, the Catholic Home Schooling Domestic Church, is proving to be a powerful new force for bringing holiness to the world.