History of Pidhirsti' reformPost date: 2010-01-11
(Letters of Basilian Fathers from the monastery of the Annunciation in Pidhirtsi
and circumstances of their writing)
History of efforts of Pidhirtsi Basilians at the renewal of the Church started already during Communism in 1962 in Moravia, about 15 km from Velehrad – centre of mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. At that time 16-year-old Antonín Dohnal experienced deep internal conversion to Christ to whom he remained faithful up to this day.
Bishop Eliáš A. Dohnal, OSBM, is the oldest member of our community and our spiritual father. He experienced his conversion in his 16. In 1966 he enters the seminary in Litom??ice (Czech Republic). During the studies, from 1st up to 5th year, he spent almost all free time in prayer and in seeking interior relationship with God. He always had a sense of what is relevant, and discerned things clearly. It was already when he was entering the seminary that one could see his sound principles and a great eagerness to follow Christ and save souls. He did not lose that eagerness, quite the contrary. Later on, he shared with us his testimony from the time of his theological studies, recalling: “I had a great grief in heart and this was pushing me to pray till late night. I realized the cost of time, it seemed to me that I was wasting day after day in lukewarmness, I was penetrated with a desire to give myself wholly to God. Prayer became a real need to me. I could perceive that here I was speaking with God. He the Creator, me a creation. In an act of faith I was giving Him everything, as if now I could in full consciousness experience my death. I had my hands lifted up. A driving force was a kind of anger at myself, that I am wasting time and that I want to make a radical end of it. I am not going to remain consciously in such a state. I don’t know what I should do, so I am standing here before God, opened and beseeching. I cannot do more. I could feel God’s closeness, a pressure rising from the power of sin, the responsibility I have in relation to God for this short life.”
After finishing his studies, he takes up pastoral service as a priest. He is still aware of the importance of prayer. Every day, beginning at three in the morning, he is seeking God’s face.
Afterwards, he must take military service for two years, where not even Sunday participation at the liturgy was allowed.
After his return he served as a chaplain in Zlín (CR), and then in 1975 he is assigned to Slušovice as a parish-priest. This village was considered a kind of autonomous republic in which Communism to a certain extent tolerated some freedom due to the well-known prosperous JZD (United agricultural cooperative / kolkhoz). This parish was the first in the Catholic Church in the whole CSSR (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic) to experience a spiritual revival through the charismatic renewal in 1981. This spiritual breakthrough as if opened people’s eyes, in their everyday life they began to gain experience and the traditional, formal belief was no longer sufficient to them. They met with Jesus as a living God who was amidst them working wonders and signs. There were prayer-groups created. People were gathering not only in the church, but in their houses as well. The parish revived.
However, the STB (State Security Service) (KGB) could not suffer this visible change long and Fr. Antonín was transferred to the border-town Budišov. There was no opportunity for evangelization in the borderland. Father Antonín perceived that the very need for this time was God’s Word: “Put out into the deep.” (Lk 5:4) In a life of intensive prayer the Lord was revealing the mystery of the power of His Word, of a personal devotion and pure love. Young people seeking a living Christianity were coming for whole weekends, taking part in the prayer programme and spiritual talks. They were motivated by seeing a living relation to God founded on a true prayer.This aroused in them a desire to follow Jesus, burn for Him, just like they could see it with Father Antonín. Students were gathering in the parish-house during all this period (1981-1985) when Fr. Antonín was here.
As a fruit of this life of prayer, in 1983 God granted a clear light concerning the field of occultism. The point was first of all to bring to light the occult practices of F. Ferda, a priest who was occupying himself with divination for several years. Every day one could see crowds of people standing by his door, for nowhere else in the republic they could meet with such a medium as him. Almost all priests believed his ability to be a gift of God. Similarly as in Samaria with Simon the magician who helped people occupying himself with the white magic, and all from the least to the greatest were saying that it was a gift of God. Fr. Antonín therefore wrote Fr. Ferda an open letter, which was given at a disposal to priests and ordainers as well. The reaction was very intense – the priests flared up and stood up in opposition. The consequences of an open struggle against occultism, as one can read about in Acts 16:16nn, we can clearly see on the following event: About a month after the open letter against Fr. Ferda was written, the parish of Fr. Antonín celebrated a pilgrimage and many people came there; among others there was also a strange young man who used the occult “help” of Fr. Ferda. (Later we came to know that he lived in the same town as Fr. Ferda.) During the night he came to the local JZD, naked he lied down under a cow and swore at Fr. Antonín, though Fr. Antonín had never even seen him. The employees of the JZD got frightened and sent him to the psychiatric clinic. He was sent home the next day. However, the occult spirit that had passed on that boy through the healing by Fr. Ferda achieved its purpose. All started to say that Fr. Antonín produces psychopathic people. Against Fr. Antonín a heavy atmosphere was purposefully created so that people could not accept the truth about occultism and so that they could not be released from this influence. The priests favouring Fr. Ferda and his occult activity uncritically spread these untrue and unjust myths further and aroused a wave of opposition against Fr. Antonín, the reason of which, in fact, was that he brought these occult practices into light. If Fr. Antonín did not love God more than anything else he could not withstand such a hard spiritual fight.
Soon after, Fr. Antonín identified the activity of another super-occultist in CSSR, Mr. Paseka. This was followed by a second wave of hate. While Fr. Ferda’s clients were mostly priests and religious sisters, the practices of Mr. Paseka were contaminating small children and laymen. That occultism is tied with business (cf. Acts 19:19; 16:16n) and rule, was apparent even here. In 1985, there was a monstrous process constructed through the STB, Fr. Antonín was first called up by the district STB and soon after by the regional STB. Finally they found a reason – allegedly, in his preach he was defending Nazism. The opposite was true; however, by now the STB already had a distorted version prepared as a material for a court trial, even enclosed by signatures of “witnesses”. They were threatening him with 5 years of prison, or a voluntary stay at a psychiatric ward. God intervened miraculously, they did neither the former nor the latter. Fr. Antonín was called up to the regional STB to Ostrava. Here he saw a big black flag hanging as a sign of death of one of the high officers of the STB. The result of the call-up was unexpected; after this sudden death of their superior, the STB officers got afraid and cancelled the trial. Only a small punishment followed – a replacement to another parish, but under the supervision of a priest who had a confidence of the state authorities.
A year after, he was transferred to a so-called prison for nuns, where about 400 religious sisters from 15 orders were centralized. The state inspector kept a constant watch over Fr. Antonín, who was here as a prisoner and could not leave the place without the inspector’s consent. Fr. Antonín used to pray here in the church from 0 to 4 am. nights, for during the day there was no opportunity to pray. The prayers brought much light. Here Fr. Antonín got a clear word relating to the ecumenical meeting in Assisi. He wrote a sharp but clear letter to the Holy Father, in which he expressed that such a meeting caused a great scandal in the Church. Many who are not aware of the gravity of such a scandal may easily condemn the “impertinence” of Fr. Antonín. However, St. Catherine of Siena, to whom God granted a deep insight into the matters of the Church, was far more “impertinent” in her behaviour towards the Pope. This “divine impertinence” is granted by God to people who in their prayers stand before His face and perceive the pains of the Church. The letter was delivered to the Holy Father in Rome, in Nepomuceno.
At the end of April 1987, without any reason the state authorities prohibited Fr. Antonín from his clerical service. The aim of the STB, with the initiative of certain priests behind it, was – to deprive him completely of the state’s license to his service as a priest. There was a severe spiritual fight again. It was not until 7th July that he was placed in supposingly the worst parish in the diocese. Here again students were coming for their prayer weekends. The years 1985 and 1986 brought new essays on prayer and certain visions for particular groups of people how to live by faith (for students, seminarists, priests, pensioners). This was also the place where essays on the first, second and third word of Jesus from the cross originated. All literary work had its beginning on knees. At the new place of work (Dvorce 1987-1990) the spiritual fight continued. The fruit of prayer was an apology for faith against liberalism in the Church. By means of a prohibited “technique” (a roll) these spiritual essays were duplicated and sent out to priests. It happened not once that parcels with the letters delivered to the post-office got lost mysteriously, so the letters had to be duplicated again. Regrettably to say, in many of the activities of the STB the inspiration came from among liberal-minded priests. In Dvorce the initiative of constant prayer originated, which lasted from the Pentecost 1988 to the Pentecost 1989. Bohemia prayed uninterruptedly from 1st to 10th day of month, Moravia from 11th to 20th and Slovakia from 21st to 30th(31st) day of month. In many of the parishes prayer-groups were set up. Each member prayed one hour which he chose out of the 24 hours of day, and all prayer-groups prayed a common hour from 20°° to 21°°. Some members even practised fasting on bread and water Wednesdays and Fridays. They were united by a common intention, namely that God occupy the orphaned bishoprics with holy bishops. God made a miracle that one would not even be able to think of; on 17th November 1989 in CSSR the Communism fell. The same happened in all Communist countries in Europe. The episcopal sees were filled (the holiness of shepherds now depends on each of them individually). One more remark – when Cardinal F. Tomášek gave his approval and blessing for the so-called prayer-fight, the very next day the Radio Free Europe broadcasted an agitation programme against Fr. Antonín, obviously an activity of the priests who with a clear conscience were on the one hand collaborating with the STB and on the other providing private information for the international radio. These were the adherents of occultism and liberal theology, for whom Fr. Antonín was the enemy number 1 that had to be compromised and isolated and that by help of the Communist state machinery. Naturally, behind them there was the same old-known spirit that was and still is destroying the works of God; however, on the other hand, God through His servants showed and shows His glory. The attempts to liquidate the prayer-fight at its core did not succeed, and the prayers bore their fruit: besides all the prayers this was also living experience with God during the prayer and personal conversions.
Some of the girls that were coming to the prayer weekends, decided on advice of Fr. Antonín to take temporary vows as a new community before the new Archbishop in Olomouc (CR) on 8th December 1990. Later two of them transferred to a contemplative monastery in Ukraine. At present there are about 20 vocations from Czech and Slovak Republic there.
In 1991, Fr. Antonín together with a student of theology R. Špi?ík, his brother Ing. J. Špi?ík, and Ing. L. Juchelka resolved to join such religious order which by its spirituality was most tied to the heritage of St. Cyril and Methodius. Such was the Order of St. Basil the Great (OSBM) of the Greek-Catholic Church. That same year they entered the novitiate in Warsaw.
In 1992, Fr. Antonín (Eliáš) returned to the renewed monastery in Trebišov (Slovak Republic). The remaining three brothers stayed in Warsaw to complete their theological studies, and then came to Slovakia, too.
From 1993 to 1997, Fr. Eliáš was giving lectures on dogmatics at theological faculty in Prešov. In 1994 a spiritual awakening broke out here through a two-day recollection. This brought about a fuss, and certain Church circles demanded that Fr. Eliáš be dismissed from the faculty. Bishop J. Hirka stood up for him and Fr. Eliáš could teach further. Apart from lectures Fr. Eliáš worked with the students even in a free time. He was visiting student’s hostels where small communities were created to devote themselves to the living God’s Word, prayer and testimony of faith. The seeking students, boys and girls, were struck by his vital belief in Christ. In 1995-1996 the students were assigned by him to work up essays in a form of short fitting articles on topical issues which they were then sending to massmedia. Unfortunately, the influence of the spirit of the world, which blocks the spreading of any clear expression of God’s truths, had such a result that out of 300 letters there were almost none published. When Fr. Antonín together with Doc. MUDr. Ma?ka CSc. fought in a literary way against homoeopathy, he met just with a great disappointment. The Episcopal Conference by an unclear formulation, published in all Catholic journals in SR, approved homoeopathy. This statement has not been revoked up to the present day, which is a big scandal and shame. Pharmacists, who were till that time hesitative, opened the door to it and thus within a few weeks, because of such attitude of the Church, all pharmacies took up homoeopathy – this big fraud and form of magic!
Fr. Eliáš promoted prayer and purity of faith at charismatic conferences in SR as well as on a new pilgrimage place in Litmanová. In 1996, as a preparation for the jubilee 2000, he called for an establishment of prayer-groups of constant prayer. Many of them are praying in SR till this time.
In 1996-1997 Fr. Metod?j R. Špi?ík, Fr. Cyril J. Špi?ík and Fr. František L. Juchelka were ordained priests. Soon after, we applied to the Generalate for an establishment of a contemplative branch in the OSBM order. We were four priests and five students of theology from the University of Prešov. An approval by the Generalate came (1997). Fr. Eliáš was appointed a superior of the community which was named “Comunita vitae monasticae”. The fruit of prayer was again an essay on a topical issue with a title “Spiritual Cesspit”. All the summer we were carrying out recollection. Thanks to God and His grace the participants were experiencing deep personal conversions. What toll will it take? We know by experience that the kingdom of God is not gained for free. Soon several religious from the Slovak OSBM province stood rough up against us and began to assault both on a bishop and the Generalate likewise by intrigues. That spirit which did not want to permit anything in the OSBM order that could bring life, was in essence following one aim – death of spiritual life in the Order. As a consequence of these big pressures of jealousness, at the end of 1998 the community was abolished. Upon the decision of the province Fr. Eliáš was given to isolation, which he used mostly for prayer. We also were separated and given to different places. Yet, since the OSBM authorities to a certain extent were conscious of their guilt, they tried to solve this situation by establishing in 2000 a Czech delegature (CR), where finally Fr. Cyril, Fr. Metod?j and also Fr. Markian Hitiuk from Ukraine (with whom they had studied in Warsaw) were assigned. The three fathers served in the parish of the Cathedral church of St. Climent in Prague. Fr. František became a superior of the monastery in Sázava connected with the tradition of St. Cyril and Methodius. For nearly a quarter of a century, a renewer of this tradition, a great saint, wonder-worker and exorcist St. Prokop († 1053) lived at this place. There was a novitiate founded here, which was entered by several students who had been in contact with us already beforehand. A short development came. We bought an old barn and rebuilt it into a monastery. The centre was the place of prayer – a chapel – which was under the ground, something like a cave. In the course of the year 2002 the building was completed and transferred. There were many obstacles, some of them insuperable, for the building was located on a territory where any encroachment was strictly watched by archaeologists and by the National Trust. Also during the construction we experienced a number of real miracles and interventions of God.
All of us have been praying already for several years the ‘prayer-guards’ of a constant prayer 10 days in month. Their fruit on this place was a renewal of the crypt of St. Prokop and a creation of special Stations of the Cross in the famous so-called Prokop’s furrow. Sázava has witnessed a number of miraculous recoveries, and it was also here that the book St. Prokop – the Wonderworker was compiled.
In 2003, Bishop J. ?avinec retired on a pension and was replaced by the former head of the Focolare movement in CSSR L. Hu?ko who was pushed through to this function by the Focolare leadership. The affair was very insensitive towards the Greek-Catholic Church and mainly towards the prevailing majority of believers who were of Ukrainian nationality. In CR there are about 5 000 believers of Eastern rite who are not Ukrainians. After the fall of Communism about 200 000 Ukrainians of Eastern rite came to CR. These expected that they would have their own UGCC (Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church) just like in other countries. In this way it is recommended by the Eastern Church law. When they asked us if according to the CCEO they have a right to apply for their UGCC we told them truly that they do. And this was our biggest crime. By those whom it did not suit to their programme this was called an incitement, organizing a rebellion against the Church hierarchy etc. In May 2003 the Ukrainian believers were gathering in front of the building of the Vatican embassy in Prague where they used to have a short silent demonstration which consisted in holding a slogan: “We want UGCC and Ukrainian bishop”, and they prayed there for about half an hour. This lasted several days. On the day of episcopal ordination of L. Hu?ko, who was enforced upon them by Latin Focolarines, they were silently standing in the Cathedral holding the banners by means of which they were claiming their right. Later on this bishop named them a “dark mass”, threatening to send the police to expel them from the Czech Republic. This foco-bishop, a pattern of “love” about which this movement is speaking on and on, immediately after his inauguration turned to state authorities and abolished our delegature registered at the Department of Culture; besides, a small house for students in Prague, and the monastery in Sázava which we built up with our own hands, he transmitted to himself. Why did he liquidate us? Because we preached the living Christ. He was not interested in God’s kingdom, salvation of souls, or some good of the Church, the less so in the Ukrainians. The main interest of the Focolarines was to push their man through to the Eastern Church and even here to come to power (to occupy the Church structures). The Focolarines together with their bishop would remove us of the way sooner or later. At that time it suited them to put out a mendacious campaign about us, that we had stood up against the Holy Father, against the Holy Church etc. The ordinary Focolare members spread these fames with credibility throughout the Church circles all around CR and SR in the way they were told it by their leadership. This was our first encounter with this mafia inside the Catholic Church, which with someone consciously but with the majority unconsciously, though effectively, enforces within the Church a spirituality of false unity and false love, which, in fact, is a spirituality of the New Age. Many people are surprised at the confidential connections of the Focolare movement with power authorities – as in the Communist era so even nowadays. Bishop L. Hu?ko was on the list of the STB collaborators. According to the Czech law any higher official must not serve an office without having been lustrated. Bishop L. Hu?ko avoided it and it was tolerated. In 2005, Slovak archives publicized the lists of STB collaborators. By that time L. Hu?ko had already had no entry there. This is worth consideration. For only few exceptional individuals could manage to cover up their tracks!
Since 2003, when upon the “recommendation” of the Focolare movement the OSBM authorities in Rome sent us to Ukraine, we were carrying out a blessed mission. So as to this, we can only be grateful to this movement. During the mission many people experienced conversion. The eyes of many were opened, there were prayer groups created starting even their own journal. After one year that same spirit of death attacked this work of God. The new General Superior, who pronounced that he had been saved from death by a magic healer, became our liquidator. A few days after his election he abolished (without any reason) the Czech delegature by the decree from 11th July 2004, and at the same time he took dispositions to liquidate us and our mission in Ukraine alike. All priests (5) and students with temporary vows as well as postulants (18) were without any guilt stated excluded from OSBM. We, priests with perpetual vows (4 ThDr., 2 ThLic.), were after a short and illegal monstrous process also excluded without any real argument. We appealed to the Apostolic Signature in Rome. The General Superior, with an aim of co-operation in our liquidation, visited in person Bishop L. Hu?ko. Besides, he commissioned his Vicar and the Provincial Superior in Ukraine to liquidate us by means of intrigues and state power. Following this aim they abused Cardinal L. Huzar who on the press conference on 2nd June 2005 confessed: “I was visited by the General Superior (Vicar) and by the Provincial Superior of OSBM and they dictated me letters… it is now a matter of the state what they are going to do…” The list included names of 23 people “dangerous” for the Church. How mean – if we have broken the Church law we should be punished by the Church, and if we have broken the law of the state then by a proper civil trial! However, the chief priests have always sought unity with Pilate when the point was a liquidation of the living Christ. We thought that Lord would grant us a time of peace, that we would be able to carry out our mission peacefully. But where the living Christ is preached, where people are being liberated from the bondage of darkness and sin through a return to the kingdom of God, there the devil begins to attack.
We are thankful to God that here in Ukraine He gave us four prophetic words for the Church. Every young person but also every Christian today needs to have a clear orientation, ortherwise he will either have the spirituality of the New Age or he will leave the Catholic Church.
We are thankful to the Lord that we can suffer for Christ. There were others who suffered a lot more. In 2Cor 11:22-32 St. Paul enumerates all that he suffered for the name of Jesus Christ. St. Cyril and Methodius had to appeal to Rome because of intrigues of the Church hypocrites and pharisees. Those intrigues resulted in 200 disciples being sold to slavery to Venice. Thousands of martyrs for Christ were cruelly tortured. Religious pharisees excluded St. Alphons from his own order. St. John of the Cross was titled as a rebel against the Church and its enemy, and every Friday he was scourged… If certain charismatic circles with the spirit of the world are preaching a gospel of prosperity, then they do not know the elementary spiritual principles of the Gospel, namely: 1) to deny myself 2) take up my cross 3) and follow Christ (Mt 16:24). Where to? To the court and to death. Only then resurrection and true glory comes.
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