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