Directory of Parishes
Russia West of the Urals: St. Petersburg

October 2003

Dear Friends!

First of all, excuse me for being silent so long. In Summer I was absent for a long time, then the problem occurred — suddenly I was forced to find a new flat for myself and our community meetings, as the one we occupied before, were sold by the owners. It produced a new material consequences for us — and at the same time I lost my main job, that provided an income to pay for flat, for my food and to support my ill mom, and grandma. It was hard time. So I was very busy with finding some money to live on and to continue to pay for the flat etc. It was combined with my usual activities and work — so you can guess how hard this time was for me. Thanks to God and your prayers the helped me survived during that time and I believe will help in future. The flat we moved in is quite similar to the previous one. What is I just wondering — is that we're moving from one flat to another and paying to the agents each time — with no improvement of our conditions. That seems very ironic sometimes — but anyway it's just to make fun, not to complain about.

Well, now about the things going.

Our community's mission is continuing slowly, but I should say, successfully. Long and careful service for the garden is helping the good, well rooted and strong trees to grow. And they would bear their own fruits then with the help of God's grace. Our ‘mission of friendship’ as I call it is a slow, but well working method (if it could be called by this ‘formal’ word). During this year at least two persons (one young man and one young woman) became Catholic after the proper preparation. Some more people are studying Catechism with us — and are going step by step towards life in the Church. Even more are growing in their way to faith and in their sympathy towards the Church. I'm asking all of you about strong prayers — for our mission could develop and grow, especially in quality, but of course in quantity as well.

Last November (I don't remember if I wrote about it) our community adopted a new name together with the new statute we accepted. It's now called ‘The Knights of the Holy Cross of the Lord’ — and this new name is more expressive in showing our spirituality — that of Christian Knighthood. We're sure that it contains a lot of values that are especially needed by the modern society and people.

In August we went to our usual Summer Camp — near the Finnish Bay in the forest (not too far from Saint-Petersburg). This time a lot of our members and friends of our community were with us. Our brother Michael from Murmansk with his friend (that's far North of Russia), our brother and friends from Moscow etc. There was usual framework of course - that includes prayers, common meals and some physical activities as well as some studying. This time the studying included several lectures I delivered about the basics of the Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (that were received with great interest and produced great success among our people — the words ‘actus’ and ‘potentia’, ‘essence’ and ‘existence’ were heard by me many times when going by the people walking or swimming.

Pavel during the lecture on Aquinas philosophy.

Another subject presented was about the different Rites in Catholic Church, their meaning, importance (and beauty) — and about some practical point of Canon Law, regarding inter-rite marriages, changing rites etc. That was also heard with interests and produced a lot of questions. Other brothers of our community were working organizing other parts of the life in the camp.

Camping, the Fire — last evening.

It occurred that near us some people were camping. They get there in order to achieve a world-record, flying with the machines called ‘aerochute’ or something like this. It's flying because of big parachute and the propeller, sending air to it and up. It's very rare machine and I never saw one before. The men, owing it, were so kind that agreed to take some of our people one by one with them in the heaven. Seeing them I also couldn't hold out and went to the air with the ‘aerochute’. After all, I never flied, even in airplane… Beautiful experience — no fear at all and the look of the earth, forest and people is completely different from heaven. The words of the Psalms are coming to mind and there is a strong wish to bless all the earth below and to sign it with the sign of the Cross (that is what I did, as it was so natural for me as an Eastern Christian).

It brings me to myself — and to the work we (and I myself as a humble part of ‘we’) did during that year and plans I'm trying to fulfill in the nearest future.

In the Summer it was possible to organize the public Readings in Church History of Russia in one of the Catholic parishes here. The public was not great in number — as the subjects were serious and ‘professional’- but people came to listen. It included seven lectures delivered by four different lecturers, devoted to different questions of the Church history. The topics covered included the history of the Armenian Catholic Church in Russia, the destroy of the Russian Greek-Catholic Church by the Soviet State in the Beginning of the XXth Century, the Place of Germans in the History of the Catholic Church in Noth-Western Russia, the House and Private Chapels History in St. Petersburg Region, the Holy and Memorial Places of the Russian Greek-Catholics in St. Petersburg, The Catholic History of St. Petersburg in XVIII Century, and the Problems of the Church History in Russia in Pre-Mongolian Period. Now I hope that it would be possible to publish the materials of the readings in this or that way. It was organized by our St. Nicholas Foundation.

During this year I finished two books. One is about the Servant of God Mother Catherine Abrikosov — you know about that one. It's being translated into Italian now. As far as I know it would be published in Italian and in Russian by ‘Russia Christiana’ Foundation that supported that work. As far as I know, prof. Joseph Lake (USA) is working on the translation of the book in English. This was a big work (although I couldn't, of course, gather all the archive materials and even now I sometimes find new sources — but the general picture is clear and it wouldn't change I'm sure). Another work (that was also done for more than a year) is a set of archive and historical documents, connected with the work and life of Blessed Leonid Feodorov, the Exarch of Russian Byzantine Catholics. This book of the documents most of which were gathered by me and were never published — would be a volume of more than 500 pages. The ‘Christan Russia’ is not sure if they would publish it (I think they can afraid they wouldn't find enough readers for it), so if they wouldn't — I would try to find the possibility to publish it by myself or somewhere (here all depends on the financial support that would be possible to find for this — which is extremely difficult).

Publishing of the books is a very difficult problem. Practically no one is interested in supporting such a thing. It's quite obvious why — no commercial profit can be got for Catholic books in Russia. It wouldn't be possible to find a Russian sponsor for such a project — and (I don't know why) foreign sponsors also don't show enough interest… May be they just don't know the situation here. I'm absolutely sure that it's fundamental to publish good Catholic books in Russian — both for the authentic mission and for authentic ecumenism reasons. I've heard a lot of times from clever Catholics and Orthodox (students of the Orthodox Academy here) that they really need good books on the history, theology, philosophy of the Catholic Church. Of course there are some publishers here (mostly two of them — both in Moscow) but their possibilities are not that great, and there are only a few good books. Many times I said in different places, that our St. Nicholas Foundation has enough organizational resources and necessary experience for organizing that work provided the financial support would be found… But no result yet. I don't become tired to repeat, that the need for this work is extremely crucial and urgent.

Another subject is Eastern Christian Studies. There are great possibilities to publish unique works on the subject of Eastern Churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) here in Russia, especially in St. Petersburg. A lot of specialists don't write only because they're sure that they would never find money to publish their work and to buy some food during the work period. St. Petersburg — like Rome — unique in this area. And I', sure that the good publishing program of this kind would bring great things for the World science — not only Russian — but also for the authentic Ecumenism — that's way towards better understanding of each other… But it's hard to get interest from potential sponsors/supporters… Maybe it's because the lack of true ecumenism inside our Catholic Church? It's within itself she's called to me truly ‘ecumenical’ (oecumenical — that is ‘Embracing the whole world’, ‘Universal’, ‘Catholic’). In fact a lot of people in the West know nothing about the Eastern Catholic Churches existence at all. So what we can do to obtain more interests and more love to each other first of all among ourselves? If we don't do it — we can't do anything for the true reconciliation of the Christians divided.

There are many important projects, the only problem for which is to find money for publication. For example it's the book about St. Josaphat Kunciewicz I already wrote about (still unpublished!) and the book for the Armenian Catholics — no money are available for publishing it as well… That's a great, great sorrow for my heart! So many thing are to be done — God send us necessary means to do Your Work!

When there is possibility I'm glad to work as a translator or writer for any of this aims. Because in fact I see the whole vocation of the Eastern Catholic to the great extent as the vocation of the ‘translator’ between different great Christian traditions. In order to be such a translator it's necessary to understand their substantial unity and they uniqueness and to know their own ‘languages’. Each ‘language’ is of great value. It helps us to come to that essence (let me say to that ‘esse’ — ‘existentia’) of the Church — that is experience of the presence of the Christ living with His People.

That's why I was so happy to translate into Russian the Papal Documents (unfortunately Agnuz information service for which I did this job now doesn't have funds to pay for the continuing of it). That's also why I'm happy that I had possibility to work on the translation of the article of the one of the most interesting and deep Catholic Philosophers of our Century — that of Fr. Bernard Lonergan SJ. Fr. Igor Chabanov (with whom I closely collaborate when it's possible) asked me to translate one of the papers of this philosopher into Russian — that I did gladly. In august it was possible for me to attend a meeting organized by Fr. Igor with his guests — Brother Dunstan Robidoux OSB, who is the Director of the Lonergan Institute in Washington and his companions from USA and Austria. It was a nice meeting (some of other brothers of our community were also visiting it). And a nice experience — as it's any time seems like a wonder for me when I met people from the West that don't belong to the ‘Society of Consumerism’. It's a real joy and a sign of hope… It seems that I would be futher involved into translations of Lonergan works if God wishes, helping to bring more serious Catholic philosophy to the Russian reader.

Another ‘good news’ is that it was finally possible to get closer to the project of big web-site for Byzantine Catholics in Russia. With the help of God and Fr. Sergius Golovanov from Siberia, who finally was able some necessary funds for the programming and other work — I was finally able to work two monthes on the site as an editor. It would include a big library (61 publication at the moment), list of the communitite, news etc… I hope it would be a great help to the Greek-Catholics in Russia — at least they would have a ‘place’ to meet and a source of the necessary spiritual, liturgical, historical, educational and formational resources. The site would be published in about several weeks, with the address . Now the next problem is to find necessary funds to continue its existence — at least the work of the permanent editor and qualified technical specialist is necessary for it, and so it's necessary to pay for the work they would do. Please pray for it — and whoever has a possibility to contact the possible sponsors (by the way — for any project, not just for this one).

Together with Fr. Sergius Golovanov (he found funds and edited the book, and I organized all the work of preparing it to publication and was working with the typography) we were able to print the great book. It's ‘Prisoner's Memoirs’ — the recollections of the Prelate Joseph Svidnicki, Latin rite priest, who was persecuted fot the religious work in Russia (in 1980s!!!). This is very well written account of his way to priesthood, studies, work in former Soviet Union — and the time spent in Camps… Fr. Joseph is alive — he's working in Ukraine now. We published 500 copies of this book, that could be helpful, I'm sure, to each Russian Catholic, especially to the young ones — providing true ‘sense of history and sense of tradition’ so necessary for the Christian World-view.

Pavel with Fr. Iosiph Svidnicki's book — recently from the typography!

That's near the end — about the work done. A lot of things are in plans. I'm working simultaneously on the plans of three books. One is the part of the project I was asked about by some people in Russia, who are interested in J.R.R. Tolkien's writings. They asked me to write a book, researching and revealing the Christian foundations of Tolkien's thinking and creativity — and the Christian meanings of his books message. I was thinking about it for a long time — but the asking of those people and the possibility to buy necessary literature due to some money provided for it by one other person decided the question. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors — and I do regard him as one of the most prominent (and most Catholic) Catholic authors of the recent past. I know several people, converted to Christ after deep reading of his books…

Two other things I'm working on is a sort of ‘catechetical’ book for Byzantine Catholics. In fact it would be a short outline of the Catholicity of the Byzantine-Slavonic tradition. It's very important. We don't have any such a book in Russian. There are some Catechisms, but printed in 30-40s, they are written by a former Latin priest, changed his rite to Byzantine. The language and thinking of them is very much latinized — which is in contradiction with what Church wants from us now, with the fidelity to the unique theological tradition of each Church sui juris. Orthodox books are too much anti-catholic mostly, so it's impossible to give them to people as a sort of ‘introduction’ to our tradition. There are good latin-rite books — but it's necessary to have and eastern ones, in order people could understand their own tradition.

The other one is the book I though of and gathered materials for during a very long time. There is common misconception, strongly supported by the Mass-media (and unfortunately by some Orthodox propagandists in Russia) that Russia was always in confrontation with the Catholic Church, that Orthodoxy and Catholic Church are sort of ‘natural enemies’. There are also some ‘black legends’ produced to support that wrong myth. But there are a lot of historical data, that are contradicting to this myth and can reveal completely different picture both of Catholic Church in the history of Russia and of Russian (and Orthodox) relations with the Catholic Church. That data, although, usually are kept in silence (due to many reasons). The book I wish to write will be a series of popular sketches, presenting this data and helping to get more accurate picture of the real history — and to ask the serious questions regarding the today's situation…

So, a lot of designs — but not too much health and resources. Sometimes it's necessary to postpone everything in order to get some money for food and flat… That's hard for me, as I know I could be working with much more use for the People of God at that time… So I'm asking about your prayers. It's very important for me to know about the friends, interesting with what we do and praying for us.

This year we had a visit (soon after our Camping) of two members of Madonna House — Ellie and Liza. They were wonderful! Madonna House is a Catholic community (with vows), founded in Canada by the Russian woman, Catherine Doherty. I think many of you have heard about her. She was a wonderful and saintly character, profoundly marked by the feature I regard as the ‘knightly’ — uncompromised fidelity to the Lord and His mission He gives to the person. Some time ago we had another visitor from Madonna House — wonderful lady, named Miriam. Miriam and Liza are now in Magadan, Siberia, where there is also a small Madonna House — first in Russia.

Pavel with Liza and Ellie from Madonna House

I'm awaiting a Greek-Catholic priest from Siberia as a guest here in St. Petersburg. He would also serve a Liturgy (would it be seventh for two years?) for the Greek-Catholics here. The last one was served by the priest from Canada, Fr. Peter Galadza, this Summer. And in Saturday I would be taking part in the Rosary prayer for the Catholic youth in St. Petersburg (I took part in the preparation), run by the brilliant Latin rite priest Fr. Pietro Scalini (Italian, working in St. Petersburg for many years and a good friend of mine)… So, everything is going with the help of God…

Please, write to me! Even when I don't have time to write to often it's very important for me to know about you, fathers, brothers and sisters, working together with me and with us — at least in your prayers!

With love in Christ,

Pavel A. Parfentiev (St. Petersburg), humble and sinful Knight of Christ.