Nights 458-464 – Br. Błażej letters

Stories of Resilience and Faith: Ukrainians Endure the War

A Chronicle of Daily Struggles and Unyielding Hope in Ukraine, May 28-June 3, 2023

Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian people exemplify remarkable resilience and unwavering faith. From the relentless nights of war to the unwavering dedication of the Capuchin brothers providing essential ministry and support, these stories shed light on the transformative power of faith and the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people. As we explore their journeys, we witness their determination to rise above adversity, their unwavering hope for a just peace, and the profound influence of their faith in guiding them through the darkest times.

Night 458: Pentecost.

We survived another night full of alarms and, above all, kamikaze drones that flew into Ukraine from various directions. There were airstrikes from 1 to 6 a.m., with alarms over almost all of Ukraine. Kiev was the most attacked. Of the 54 kamikaze drones launched by the Russian terrorists, 52 were shot down. Unfortunately, there were casualties.

In Vinnitsa, we were visited by more “angels” — volunteers from Poland who have gone to the east of Ukraine. The guests were received by our brothers Joseph and Paul.

In Lviv and Krasilow, the spring chapter of the Franciscan Youth has begun at the Padre Pio retreat house in Krasilow. About 55 people from Kyiv, Vinnitsa and other cities have gathered there. May the Holy Spirit lead us in His paths!

Night 459: Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

The night was similar to the previous: punctuated by alarms and kamikaze drones. Russia launched 40 drones — plus a few dozen more missiles — with trajectories toward Kiev. All of them were destroyed, and for that we thank God and our soldiers.

Mary, guard us, and protect Ukraine and the Church in Ukraine. Happy Virgin, who gave birth to the Lord, Blessed Mother of the Church, you guard in us the Spirit of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Brother Marcin Swiąder, a Capuchin from the community of Brother Justin Rusin, created another icon today, and in Kiev we held a night vigil and prayer service. In Uzhgorod, a long-awaited trip to the mountains took place in late May: Youth from our Uzhgorod parish took part, including three children from a foster family, as well as two boys currently with us. And in

Krasilow, meanwhile, we celebrated today a long-awaited and postponed first Holy Communion for our children.

For this week’s solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, we celebrated a parish indulgence in Kiev, with a Eucharist presided over by Bishop Oleksander Yazlovetsky.

Night 460: A return to not-so-ordinary time.

More drones, which come by day as well as by night. Most targeted is Kiev, the capital. Four people were injured after Russia launched 31 drones on Ukraine; all but two were destroyed before they struck their targets.

The Word today reminds us of a bit of evangelical “business” on St. Peter’s part. Peter said to Jesus: “Behold, we have forsaken all and followed you.” Jesus replied: “Verily I say unto you, no man forsaketh house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or fields, because of Me, and because of the Gospel, lest he receive a hundredfold now, at this time, houses, or brethren, or sisters, or mothers, or children, or fields, in the midst of persecution, and eternal life in the time to come. But many of the first will be the last, and the last the first.”

For the Capuchins in Kiev, the statement that “we live in war” is fulfilled. Drones come by night and by morning. Still, we do not live by war: On the patronal feast of the church, ours is a church full of people, a common agape, dancing, and joy.

Night 461: Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Tonight was quieter than previous ones — though there was an attack on a transport base in the Dnipropetrovsk region. God, give us a just peace!

Mary visits Elizabeth, and the women exchange the Word of God. And today, we, through Mother Church, are haunted by the Word:

“Sing out, Daughter of Zion! Lift up a joyful shout, Israel! Rejoice and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgments upon you, He has removed your enemy; The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you shall no longer fear evil.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Fear not, Zion! Let not your hands grow weak!’ The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One who saves, He will exult over you with joy, He will renew you with His love, He will raise a shout of joy.”

“Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not malign. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Be unanimous among yourselves. Do not chase after greatness, but be attracted to what is humble.”

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior … for great things has the Almighty done unto me, and His name is holy.”

With this Word, God haunts us today, so that even in the war and in this war in the head, we keep calm and maintain joy.

In Kiev, an apartment building was damaged and 30 people were evacuated. Four were injured and another was killed.

Night 462: On Children’s Day, tragedy upon tragedy.

Tonight was an especially difficult one in Kiev, where rockets and debris fell on a part of the city where the brothers live. All ten “Iskander” rockets launched toward the city were shot down, but three people — including one child, an 11-year-old girl — died, and 10 people (including a child) were injured. All this on what we recognize as Children’s Day. Let us pray that all children live in love and peace. God, give us peace.

Our president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has reported that Russia has killed at least 483 children. A thousand more children have been wounded by terrorist acts. God help our children.

The Word reminds us that “For us, Christ became obedient to the point of death, and that death of the cross. Therefore, God has exalted Him above all things and given Him a name above every name.”

Night 463: A reminder of the power of prayer.

Another night of war. Alarms. Explosions. Anti-missile systems are at work in Kiev, where people are staying overnight in a city metro station. At around 3 a.m., all of Ukraine was “red” as Russian terrorists launched 15 rockets and 18 kamikaze drones. There are damaged buildings, but for now no information about human casualties. Two people were wounded.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God! Verily I say unto you, He that saith unto this mountain: “Lift thyself up, and cast thyself into the sea,” and shall not doubt in his soul, but shall believe that what he saith shall be fulfilled, it shall be done unto him. Therefore, I say unto you, all that ye ask in prayer shall be done unto you, only believe that ye shall receive. And when you stand up to pray, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your transgressions.’”

While the mindless destruction in our country continues, we do not stop praying, because we know that prayer is the most powerful weapon. Two hands folded in prayer are stronger than two clenched fists.

Night 464: God remains our wealth in war.

Ukraine’s eastern provinces have no peace. Alarms sound day and night, and in some of the smaller towns and villages innocent people are killed every day. God, give us peace!

The Word is our wealth, wisdom, truth and source of peace — even in war. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you in all its richness; give thanks to God the Father through Christ.”

Earlier this week, men’s communities of consecrated life in Poland prayed and fasted for peace in the world, especially in Ukraine. We are grateful for their prayers.

This week in Uzhgorod, meanwhile, we distributed to the needy — many of them resettled displaced persons — 50 kitchen sets including wet wipes, dishwashing sponges, garbage bags, parchment paper, food wrap and napkins.

From Br. Błażej letters nights 458-464
Edited by br. McLean Bennett
for the Capuchin Communication Office
Province of St. Joseph

Night 445-451 – Br. Błażej letters

Stories of Resilience and Faith: Ukrainians Endure the War

A Chronicle of Daily Struggles and Unyielding Hope in Ukraine, May 15-21, 2023

Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian people exemplify remarkable resilience and unwavering faith. From the relentless nights of war to the unwavering dedication of the Capuchin brothers providing essential ministry and support, these stories shed light on the transformative power of faith and the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people. As we explore their journeys, we witness their determination to rise above adversity, their unwavering hope for a just peace, and the profound influence of their faith in guiding them through the darkest times.

Night 445: A war-torn Mother’s Day and 30 first communions.
The Word confirms that faith is grace, and that faith is born of listening. “The Lord opened her heart, so that she listened attentively to Paul’s words.” The Lord opened her heart! Come, Holy Spirit!

Last night was warlike, but reasonably peaceful; God, give us a just peace! Yesterday was Mother’s Day in Ukraine. As we wished our mothers a happy Mother’s Day, we also prayed for those mothers who are fighting on the front lines for our freedom.

In Vinnitsa, more than 30 children had their first holy communion, and we thank God for the gift of life received. Meanwhile, recovery is continuing in Ternopil after a recent airstrike on a city in western Ukraine.

Night 446: Rockets, fire and pilgrimage.
There was a moment when all of Ukraine was “red” — that is, there were alarms all over the country. The night was full of alarms. The worst of the restlessness was in Kiev, where anti-rocket systems labored against rocket raids as shrapnel fell on parts of a city on fire. And in Avdiyivka, in the Donetsk region, rocket shelling killed four people. In the west, meanwhile, military men and the families of deceased soldiers — heroes and defenders of our freedom — made a pilgrimage to the Mother of God of Berdyczów.

“I admonish you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you live in harmony and that there be no schism among you; that you be of one spirit and one thought.” War speaks otherwise.

“For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, through the people of Chloe, that there are disputes among you. I think of what each of you is saying: ‘I am from Paul, and I am from Apollos; I am from Kephas, and I am from Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Was it in Paul’s name that you were baptized? Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, and not in the wisdom of the word, lest the cross of Christ be nullified.” We pray for an end to the war — we pray for peace!

“For the doctrine of the cross is foolishness to those who go to perdition, but the power of God to us who access salvation.” Come Holy Spirit!

Night 447: Missile barrages.
Today there were fired at Kiev from Russian territory, in a very short period of time, as many as 18 missiles of various types. The Ukrainian anti-missile system — what we call the “PPO” — shot them all down. Still, falling debris left damage and sparked fires. Nighttime shelling, meanwhile, fell over the city of Nikolaev and the region around it and the city itself; one of the missile targets was a grocery store. No comments — just a prayer: God, give us a just peace!

The Word calls us to consider our ignorance of God and of his love — even in spite of our religiosity: “Paul spoke: ‘Men of Athens, I see that you are in every way very religious. For as I passed by and looked at your shrines one by one, I also found an altar with the inscription: “To the Unknown God.” I proclaim to you that which you worship without knowing. God, who created the world and everything in it …’” Ultimately, God is love — come, Holy Spirit!

On our way to Krasilov for Brother Maciej’s name day, we stopped by the old estate of the Sieniawski family with Brother Patryk. We visited the castle, the museum of the Famine of the Ukrainian people. The grave of the Baal Shem-Tov, one of the founders of Hasidism and its first disciples, is also in the village.

The friars in Krasilow/Slobidka, meanwhile, reported that a lineup of helpers and children from school made a stockpile of food slated to go toward the east. In Lviv, however, the friars are seeking help for Mr. Wadym, a 62-year-old from Bachmut who lost his house in bombings. He miraculously survived, but lost both of his legs. He is expected to leave the hospital in as little as two weeks.

Night 448: “Defenders of the sky” on the Ascension.
We fell asleep yesterday to the sound of alarms. We woke up thanking God we were still alive. Tonight has been similar: full of alarms, rockets and explosions. Our anti-rocket systems have been busy. There have been explosions in Kharkov, Khmelnitsky, Vinnitsa and Zhytomyr. in Odessa, one person died.

Brother Sergey Kippa in Kiev reports that “Tonight is the night of the vigil [before the Ascension] … but not in Berdychev. Too much sleep was not possible. Loud alarms and explosions, PPO work. Thank God for the defenders of the sky. If it were not for them, it would have been louder and much more terrible consequences.”

“Lord,” the Word seems to ask, “when will the war end?”

“It is not your business to know the time and the moment …”

“… But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive His power.”

Come, Holy Spirit!

In Vinnitsa, friars hosted the “angels” — the volunteers we know — and our benefactors, Marcin Izyk, Jack and Thomas. After an overnight stay and a meal, they continued on their way to Dnieper to the Capuchins and on their way to Eastern Ukraine. We thank God for them and pray for our benefactors.

Night 449: More missiles by night, dumplings and bread by day.
Another very difficult night, with many missile attacks on individual regions — really, all of Ukraine. Most of the missiles and drones were destroyed by anti-missile systems. God, give us peace!

The Word reminds us of its power: Just because God speaks, I am to stop being afraid. “Stop fearing, and speak, and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will bargain with you to harm you, for the reason that I have many people in this city.” Follow the Word, not fear …

“All nations, clap your hands with a joyful voice shout to God, for the Lord Most High and terrible is the great King over all the earth,” (Psalm 47). The Lord is King over Ukraine …

“You will grieve,” we remind ourselves, “but your sorrow will be transformed into joy.” Come, Holy Spirit!

In Krasilow/Slobidka, senior students working with the friars in the kitchen helped to make dumplings, scions and various breads. Our young people understand the sensitivity and the urgency of the matter at hand.

Night 450: Our growing restlessness.
War nights have been very, very restless lately. These are the consequences of the missile attacks launched from the territory of the occupying country. In Kiev, shrapnel from falling rockets caused a fire on the roof of a skyscraper. Services are working, but night alarms are ongoing in various regions of central Ukraine. Ukraine’s reality, for now, are nights full of rocket attacks and children sleeping in bathtubs.

The Word reminds me that I can be learned and know the Scriptures very well, but know only the baptism of John — that is, of water — but not of the Holy Spirit! “A certain Jew, named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, a learned man and one who knew the Scriptures well, came to Ephesus. He already knew the way of the Lord, spoke with great zeal and taught exactly what pertained to Jesus, knowing only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him with them and laid out for him exactly the way of God.”

God, grant us a just peace. Come, Holy Spirit!

Night 451: Ascensions and pilgrimages in days of war.
Wartime continues with difficult days and nights and air-raid sirens. We thank God and our anti-missile systems, which have been keeping most of the missiles from reaching their targets.

In Poland, this Sunday marked the Ascension. Here in Ukraine, our children who received their first Holy Communions a week ago have gone on a bus pilgrimage to Our Lady of Berdyczów, where they celebrated eucharist again at the shrine and got to visiting a monastery of the Discalced Carmelites. There was a group meal together, games and horse-drawn wagon rides. We thank God for our being together.

The Word says: “The Lord my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord my protector of my life; from whom should I feel trepidation?” And, again: “One thing only I ask of the Lord, and for this I strive, that I may always abide in His house after all the days of my life, that I may taste the sweetness of the Lord, constantly rejoicing in His temple.

Hear, Lord, when I cry aloud; have mercy on me and hear me. About You my heart says: “Seek His face!”

Come, Holy Spirit!

From Br. Błażej letters nights 445-451
Edited by br. McLean Bennett
for the Capuchin Communication Office
Province of St. Joseph

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