The Faith of MY Fathers
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 12:58 PM [+]
The death of my Grandmother has inspired renewed interest in the mysterious eastern European past of my ancestors. Hailing from what we believe to be modern day Slovakia, my Great Grandmother and Grandfather Anna (Oleksa) and John Sisak immigrated to the United States sometime in the late 19th or VERY early 20th century. As it turns out, they were Uniates (Greek Catholic or Byzantine Rite Catholic etc.), which colors them more ethnically as Rusyns rather than Slovak who would have more likely been regular Western Rite Roman Catholic.
For those who don’t know, Uniates were folks who used to be Orthodox but in the 16-17th centuries were brought under the auspices of Rome with the agreement that they could keep their Orthodox liturgies and traditions. Without a doubt politics inspired much of this transition.
As the political situation changed and Papal decrees began to be handed down which seemed to be trying to “Latinize” the Uniates, there was a good deal of friction both in the old countries as well as with the diaspora here in America. (Enforcing a celibate clergy was understandably a tough one for these my forebearers to accept.) In 1938, many of these Slavic peoples returned fully to the faith of their fathers here in American and began what is known today as the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of which at least some of my relatives are still apart of in Pennsylvania. (My Great Aunt Margaret actually remembers this happening!)
It may be infantile and insignificant to some, but to me it is an amazing thing. I should have been cradle Orthodox! Alas this venerable faith skipped a generation, and thereby labels me a prodigal son in a way I had not fully known. It may be silly, but I feel a certain extra joy in my discovering and embracing of Orthodoxy - the commonly heard “Welcome Home” offered to the newly illumined now has much deeper meaning to me. Last Sunday as I stood quietly listened to the chanting during Matins, I felt a very strong and paradoxical sense of both insignificance and significance in my being Orthodox…as if I were a pawn in the movements God ordained to bring about my family’s return to its religious heritage…the faith of our fathers. One wonders if my Orthodox ancestors were not praying fervently for such a thing to happen?
Holy Saints Cyril and Methodios, teachers of the Slavs, Pray for us!