Nights 515-519 – Br. Błażej letters
Stories of Resilience and Faith: Ukrainians Endure the War
A Chronicle of Daily Struggles and Unyielding Hope in Ukraine, July 24-28, 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 515: A war and a baptism.
The war does not stop, and the end is not in sight. People are dying — suffering families, children, people permanently wounded, physically and mentally.
We pray for the victims of the war, for Odessa, Kharkiv, Dnipro and other cities and regions. Let us ask God for a just peace through the intercession of Saints Olga, Sharbel and Kinga — patron saints of today in different parts of the world.
Today’s Word is full of tension and drama. The old logic of man, a slave in Egypt, a slave of the commune and a slave of other spirits is shown. “[The Israelites] said to Moses, ‘Did you lack graves in Egypt, that you brought us here to die in the desert? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Did we not clearly say to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone, we want to serve the Egyptians?” For it was better for us to serve them than to die in this desert.’”
The response is that of a free man, Moses, who has already heard the voice of God — and who, despite his weaknesses, follows that voice, the Word.
“Moses answered the people: ‘Do not be afraid! Remain in your place, and you will see the salvation from the Lord that He will grant us today. For the Egyptians, whom you see now, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you will remain calm.’”
A word for every war, the one in Ukraine and the one in the head and heart, in the emotions: “Do not harden your hearts today, but listen to the voice of the Lord.” Listen more to God than to yourself! God is love!
In Dnipro, a 28-year-old military man was baptized on July 23. The baptism was immediately followed by confirmation (he was joined by another military man, who’d been baptized in a church 73 years ago; he’d been an atheist for 50 years). These provided such happy moments from the frontline city, despite the war and the constant alarms there.
Night 516: Life continues under threat of war.
War brings restless skies over all of Ukraine. There’s warfare now on the front and in the border regions.
The Word today reminds us: “We store treasure in earthenware vessels, so that from God is this overwhelming power, and not from us. We endure suffering from everywhere, but we do not give in to doubt; we live in want, but we do not despair; we endure persecution, but we do not feel alone; we are toppled to the ground, but we do not perish. We bear the dying of Jesus continually in our flesh, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our flesh. For continually we who live are delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal body. Thus, death works in us, while life works in you.” God is love.
In Vinnitsa, work continues on the creation of a local monument to St. James.
In Krasilow, we hosted another formation session of the “School of Mary,” with more formation periods to follow, while in Kyiv and Olexandria on of our brothers began the retreat for the sisters of Blessed Honorat.
Night 517: In the murmur of war, we seek heaven’s bread.
The war continues with intense fighting in the Oblasts of eastern Ukraine. We pray for a just peace.
The Word brings to mind man’s way of thinking, murmuring, judging. “And the whole congregation of the Israelites began to murmur in the wilderness against Moses and against Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘May we die by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, where we sat before pots of meat and ate bread to the full! You have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole multitude to death!’”
Man thinks and complains: We were better off under communism … and so on.
What does God say to this murmuring of man? “Behold, I will send you bread from heaven like rain. And there shall go forth a people, and every day they shall gather according to the need of the day. I also want to test them, whether they will follow my commandments or not. This is the bread which the Lord gives you for food.”
In Vinnitsa, we held a dedication of the monument to St. James in the vicinity of our monastery. The project had been an initiative of our brothers and of the city’s authorities. Present were our bishop, Radoslav, and the Orthodox bishop, Simeon, city authorities and our brothers, including Br. Constantine, secretary of our custody. Also present were residents of Vinnitsa.
Night 518: God steps toward us in the cloud.
Yesterday and last night were full of alerts and drone attacks. All of Ukraine was threatened, including Lviv and Uzgorod. We pray for an end to the war and for a just peace.
Today’s Word shows God stepping toward man. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak to you, and believe in you forever.’ Moses spoke, and God answered him amidst thunder. The Lord descended to Mount Sinai, to the top of it. And he called Moses to the top of the mountain.”
“But happy are your eyes that they see, and your ears that they hear. For verily I say unto you, ‘Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see that which ye look upon, and have not seen; and to hear that which ye hear, and have not heard.’”
You are happy if you see and hear God in your life. God is love!
Our formation program, “School of Mary,” was held from July 16 to 25. We thank God for his presence, for the charismatic community “Living Fire” that led the school, the participants, and especially Brothers Alexander Mogilny and Adam Trochimovich for their work.
As all this took place, though, Russian terrorist drones in Nikopol attacked residential homes and a school.
Night 519: Celebrating Ukrainian statehood in the midst of attack.
Yesterday, the city of Starokonstantinov, where our brothers live, was attacked with rockets and drones; for the Russians, the target was the military airport. Thank God, our brothers, the city and the airport were not affected. Thank God.
We continue to pray for an end to the war and a just peace. The Dnipropetrovsk region was also shelled by Russian rockets at night.
On July 28, we marked Ukrainian Statehood Day.
The Word today tells us that “In those days, God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods beside Me!’”
From my personal experience, I know that I can easily create my own god in my head. But the only God is the one who revealed himself in Jesus and is love and loves you as you are. God is love!
In Nikolaevsky oblast, a local woman has coped with the war by de-mining a field and a meadow — so that she and her cow can live there.
In the Kherson region, meanwhile, a school and an agricultural facility and farm were destroyed this week.
Edited by br. McLean Bennett
for the Capuchin Communication Office
Province of St. Joseph