Sunday, August 21, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 34 ~ Venerable Andrey Sheptytsky

On July 6, 2016, Fr. Jason Charron sent out a plea for prayers for one of his six young daughters who was fighting a life-threatening infection. Fr. Jason was previously featured in the Catholic news for being among the married men ordained to the priesthood in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Church sui iuris in full communion with Rome. The pictures accompanying the article* of joyous smiling children being assisted by their dad was a stark contrast to the details of little Martha’s battle. She was in a medically induced coma to tend to her pain and to focus all her body’s efforts on healing. Fr. Jason asked for prayers through the intercession of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, whom Pope Francis had elevated to the title of venerable one year previous in July 2015.

Named Roman Aleksander Maria Sheptytsky at his birth in July 1865 in western Ukraine (then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), the famed leader took on the name Andrey when he entered the Basilian Order. After becoming a religious, he was ordained a priest then bishop and in 1901 was named as head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. In that capacity, he spoke out against the Communists in Russia, the atheists in Poland, and the Nazis in Germany while they took turns invading Ukraine. This led to his arrest on at least 3 different occasions and to 3 years of incarceration. Despite that, he was an unrepentant promoter of peace and ecumenical dialogue especially with the Russians and Poles while refusing to accept the evil they were committing.

Venerable Met. Andrey Sheptytsky eschewed the Polish aristocratic trappings of his childhood in order to live a life of poverty that funded free clinics, scholarships, and other grants for Ukrainian peasants in need, he was a patron of the arts, and he personally gave shelter to more than 160 Jews during the Holocaust. He learned Hebrew and was often greeted by both the priest and the rabbi when he visited a village. He encouraged others to follow his lead and his brother Klymentiy (who is a blessed) along with Met. Andrey’s priests and religious joined him in harboring the homeless and persecuted during the Nazi atrocities. His leadership of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church successfully navigated two world wars with courage, truth, and constant calls for unity in the Lord. He died in 1944, months before the Soviet liquidation which forced the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches to have to go completely underground by 1946, where the Ukrainian Catholic Church remained for over 40 years—the largest social structure in opposition to the Soviets and the largest underground religious community in the world.

While the cause for Met. Andrey’s sainthood has been open for over 50 years, Cold War politics and a lack of access to the underground documents stalled the efforts to recognize his heroic virtue. The absence of formal approval did not stop the public from recognizing his sanctity. Former Polish Foreign Minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld, pediatric cardiologist Leon Chameides, Kurt Lewin the son of a murdered rabbi, and Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann are among those hidden in the metropolitan's monasteries whose faith and life were preserved without a single loss and who went on to call for his celebration. David Kahane, his wife, and daughter were also among the Jews who were protected by the metropolitan. David went on to become the chief rabbi of the Israeli Air Force and to publish his memoirs in 1990 under the title “Lvov Ghetto Diary,” a journal he began while hidden in the Metropolitan’s palace. In the same year as his published account of the Metropolitan’s heroism, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies moved from it’s foundation at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago to it’s home at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada where the vitality of the universality of the Church is lived in academic study and summer intensives, calling upon "the East-West understanding and rapprochement between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches" that Met. Andrey exemplified.

The formal vetting process was eventually complete and the hierarch named a venerable last year, waiting next on a miracle through his intercession in order to be declared a blessed, then a second miracle in order to be declared a saint.

It was this loving care in the face of overwhelming persecution, this charity in the face of evil, which Fr. Jason called upon in asking Met. Andrey’s intercession for the life, health, and salvation of his beloved daughter as she lay in agony while the doctors predicted her death.

"A couple days ago amidst her pain,” Father Jason updated on July 18, Martha "called me to her bedside and asked that I 'say that prayer which helps me.’” Not knowing what she meant, Fr. Jason asked for clarification. "Daddy, it's the one on that card which has a picture of the bishop with the white beard.” She did not know that she was referencing the prayer for the beatification of Met. Andrey, nor did she know that her recovery had been entrusted to his intercession.

Looking up from her med sheet in disbelief at the number of strong medicines the little one was enduring, a nurse new to Martha's care later commented to her mother Halyna that “it's a miracle your daughter is even alive."

"Yes, a miracle indeed!” Fr. Jason acknowledged. "Recovery from severe septicemia and septic bone is a long and drawn-out battle (as we are learning) and many do not make it.”

"Halyna and I don’t want to ignore the role that medicine has played in this, nor do we wish to downplay the talents of the doctors and nurses,” he explained. "But, the sheer outpouring of spiritual strength and love from people here… and from numerous lands has been marvelous to behold. My family and I have encountered the power of God’s people and are in awe of this God whom we serve. No wonder He hides His glory, for if we were to see it fully unveiled we would not be able to withstand it. This gives me great courage as I observe the terrific troubles facing the Church on earth and our present world. Clearly, there is a power at hand which is invisible to the media and the powerful of this age: the power God’s people have when they turn in prayer to the Holy Trinity.”

"Do keep us in your prayers,” Fr. Jason pleaded. "I do not want to tell you not to pray for Martha and us. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and how beautiful it is. I believe Met. Andrey Sheptytsky is in that light.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ - You always regard Your faithful servants, not only with special gifts of Your love, but also with the eternal reward of the saints in heaven, and in many cases You grant them the recognition of sanctity by Your Church here on earth.

We humbly pray: grant that Your faithful servant Metropolitan Andrey be numbered among the saints. Throughout his just life, “full of suffering and trials,” he was a good shepherd for his flock and a great labourer for Christian unity. And through his beatification and intercession, grant our entire people the great gift of unity and love.

O Lord, in your mercy grant me the favor that I ask for through the intercession of the Servant of God Andrey Sheptytsky:
that Christ Our true God give the Charron family more time with their beloved Martha by healing her in soul and body,
that the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church be protected and raised up for the glory and honor of Our Father,
that the divisions between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, especially those in Ukraine, be healed through the love of the Holy Spirit,
and for these personal intentions: __________.


*I don't think that this is the article, but it's an article.

Isolde is a member of an online intercessory prayer group of which I have been a member for several years. I really appreciate her writing this post for us.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.

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