“As for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
What a beautiful declaration of faith! The Israelite’s gave us these inspiring words almost four thousand years ago. Yet they are words for our time too! In the light of cultural opposition, the Spirit of God is calling us to repeat this declaration in our families. He is asking us to serve the Lord above all other powers that ask for our loyalty! Not easy when we live in a secular minded culture where we must make moral and social choices that go against the prevailing mindset, even sometimes those of relatives and close friends
I saw the fruit of making this sometimes difficult commitment this summer as I traveled with a pilgrimage group to Russia, a nation that has emerged from a Communist, totalitarian government in which Christians of all traditions were tortured and murdered in order to clear the way for atheism to take hold in the culture.
I am old enough to remember when the Soviet Union was in full swing. I recall bomb drills in my grade school- a siren would go off and we would practice hiding under our desks and putting our arms over our heads. (Would it really have made any difference if a nuclear bomb were dropped?) I remember being told how churches had been shut down and destroyed and Christians were being slaughtered. Also, that people who were not killed but refused to be Communist could not get a decent job.
So I was fascinated to travel to Russia this summer. I expected to find a post-Communist, secular culture where religion had been pretty much snuffed out. But, Praise Be to God! I was wrong. This summer I saw that in Russia faith is alive! She is living proof that atheism cannot overcome faith in God so long as God’s faithful believers hold on to him and willingly serve him.
It was uplifting to see new churches springing up all over Moscow—and old still-standing church buildings being rebuilt. It was exciting to visit several monasteries filled with young monks praying and serving the Lord- to meet and speak with them and hear of their faith. It was inspiring to meet with lay leaders of a large, government supported foundation, promoting pro-life and pro-family causes. Wow. Not what I expected.
Faith never died. Who among us during the Communist era those many years ago knew that many households were quietly holding on to their faith? Grandmothers, in particular, were said to be quietly catechizing the youth and secretly bringing babies to baptism (or baptizing them themselves) Many fathers willingly allowed themselves to be bypassed for good jobs by refusing to join the Communist party. Sacrifices were made to “serve the Lord.”
Then, after 70 years, Communism fell. Undoubtedly the fall was linked to the prayers of the Christians in Russia. It was linked to the prayers worldwide under the inspiration of Our Lady of Fatima who specifically asked for prayers for the conversion of Russia! Wow the iron curtain fell!
I was so privileged to witness the revival of Christianity in the Russian culture this past month. My group was able to tour the incredibly beautiful new Cathedral of Christ the Savior built with millions of dollars that have come into Moscow from Russian Orthodox Christians all over the country. It is built on a high hill in the middle of Moscow for all to see and makes a statement: Christianity is not dead!
We visited a beautiful restored Catholic Cathedral also and attended the first Mass of a newly ordained priest. Present were a large group of Sisters of Charity. It was a joy.
But the predominate Church in Russia is the Orthodox. We saw many young adults with children in hand filling these churches. The liturgies lasted several hours yet there were young adults devoutly worshiping, standing the whole time, because the Orthodox churches characteristically have no pews!
And those holy monks. They told stories of being baptized quietly in their families during the Communist years. Later, they heard the call to religious life and said “yes.” Certainly they are living proof that the seeds of martyrs produced many fruits of faith in Russia. Such faith began in families who stood firm against under incredible pressure saying, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!”
May we do the same. As secularism continues to pressure us to compromise with our faith, may we be inspired by those in Russia who held firm under far more intimidating pressures. Dear Lord, give us grace, strength and peace!
About the Author:
Carol Marquardt has worked for many years in lay ministry in the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. Before beginning the development of the Our Fiat materials and Mantle of Mary Association, she served as adult education director, catechumenate director, retreat house director, and charismatic prayer group leader.