White Fields - From the steppe of Kazakhstan to the metroplis of Paris
Good News meditation.
by Matthew Brock, LC | Source:
Kazakhstan: A country larger than Europe, but emptier than Alaska. Under Communist rule for most of the twentieth century, it is still a desperately poor place. Once a great highway for the conquering armies of Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes, well-paved roads are now few and far between.
In the summer of 2002, Fr Miguel and a Kazakh priest friend from seminary in Rome bounced along a gravel road heading toward a small village lost in the vast steppe.
They were nearly there when the road began to narrow to a track until it disappeared completely in front of a low stone farmhouse. A small path at the back of the house led into the tall grass in the direction of the village.
The bewildered priests were met by a peasant farmer who told them they must leave their car there if they wanted to continue on. He then led them to a stable where he provided them with two donkeys.
Thus mounted, the two priests rode on toward the village. The windswept grass of the steppes stretched out on all sides for mile after rolling mile.
Hardly had the low-lying houses and hayricks of the small town come into view when a small, wizened old babushka came out to meet them and, though nearly ninety-years-old, bowed low and kissed their feet, crying, “Welcome, priests of Christ!”
The whole village was soon crowding around, clamoring for their blessings, and shedding tears of joy. Both priests were shocked by the welcome. This very lady who now met them on the road had been evangelizing these people, baptizing them and teaching them the faith, secretly under the Communists, then more openly with Kazakh independence. A priest had not set foot in that village and no sacrament beside baptism had been ministered there for seventy-five years.
The priests spent the entire day and the next baptizing, saying Mass, anointing the sick, hearing confessions, blessing marriages… being Christ to those people who had not had his sacraments in so long.
Before leaving Kazakhstan, the Kazakh priest took Fr Miguel to see his bishop. “So many apostolates we could be doing, both to help our own people, and to help the Russians, but I have no priests!” his Excellency lamented. “Where will we find heroes, missionaries, to come and help our people?”
Some months later, Fr Miguel was in Paris. France, the “first daughter of Mother Church,” her countryside dotted with steeples, her cities dwarfed by cathedrals, now become one of the most secular countries in the world. He was riding in a subway, signs were flashing, music blaring: it was a ride through the elegance and material extravagance of the fashion capital of the world. A young man came over to him from across the swaying cabin and pointed at the black cloth and white plastic of Fr Miguel’s Roman collar and asked, “What is that?” Fr Miguel answered, “I am a Legionary of Christ.” The young man’s blank look showed clearly he did not understand, and with no attempt at irony, asked, “Who the hell is Christ?”
Fr Miguel is now the rector of a seminary of 500 young men studying for the priesthood in Rome. But they are not enough. From the steppes of Kazakhstan to the streets of Paris, God’s fields are white with harvest.
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