Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rorate Caeli...

..."Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above..."

I was remembering  those words today when reading about Ukraine.

In the last years of Communism, and especially in the last months, it became possible to make Christian radio broadcasts, and to send Christian literature, into countries which had been starved of good reading material for decades. Prayer books, explanations of Church teachings, devotional materials of all kinds poured into Ukraine and, later, into Russia. It wasn't random stuff. People who listened to various radio broadcasts could write to Aid to the Church in Need, and get a package of materials, and, where possible, specific answers to various questions etc.

ACN's founder, Fr Werenfried van Straaten, the "bacon priest" who had championed the cause of Catholics behind what was then called the Iron Curtain for decades, was in his element. The project was called "Rorate Caeli". He and the team running it were hugely moved by the letters can came pouring in, especially from the young - asking questions about Christian teachings, wanting Catholic books, hungry for information  Many were unhappy, with lives that had been damaged by abortion or alcoholism....the same problems that were then (and now) affecting the young in the West. Many were simply confused, with a limited understanding of the Church but a great desire to know more.

Well, the project flourished, and meanwhile history was rolling on...the collapse of Communism...the end of the USSR... new independence of Ukraine...

I remember Fr Werenfried warning that the collapse of Communism didn't mean that everything would be glorious.  There was going to be an ideological void - not a sudden ability to flourish with bright new hopes, but a confused what-comes-after-communism ugliness in which  over-optimism and unrealistic expectations could jostle with weariness and cyncism, and in which old animosities could flourish and new ones emerge,..

And now it's 2015, and a new era and Russia and Ukraine are fighting and it seems as though the suffering or the Soviet years, with the  starvation famines and the Gulag and the KGB and the horror were not enough,  and now a new generation is barking out nationalistic slogans and the death toll rises.

Back in the 1960s and 70s and 80s, many of us prayed regularly for the people "behind the Iron Ciurtain" who were not free to practice their Christian faith: Communism was a big blanket-style ideological Enemy. Now, in the more confused era, it's harder to know how to direct our prayers. But it feels all wrong that we should ignore it all.

Reminder: let's pray for peace. "Drop dew, yea heavens..."

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