TO GAIN YOUR LIFE, you must lose it. The path to life is through death — and victory is achieved through a crucifixion.
A mystery is, by definition, beyond full comprehension, but while visiting Poland and Ukraine during Holy Week, I believe I saw deeper into these mysteries of our faith.
The suffering of Ukrainians has been well documented, but to see it firsthand was paradoxically both heart-wrenching and inspiring. In the space of this column, I cannot possibly fully express what my visit meant to me, but I would like to share just a few of its most significant moments.
On our first day, we traveled from Poland into western Ukraine. There we visited with displaced families who had taken refuge in a 14th-century monastery in Rava-Ruska, in the Archdiocese of Lviv. With financial assistance from the Knights of Columbus, the archdiocese converted the monastery’s once burned-out interior into a welcoming home for those who had fled Russian bombing.
It was here that I met an older Ukrainian woman who had arrived with a single bag of belongings. Her daughter is in the Ukrainian army, so she fled with her granddaughter. She had no idea when, or if, she would see her home or the rest of her family again. You might reasonably expect someone in such a situation to be overwhelmed and desperate. Instead, this woman was overflowing with gratitude. She thanked me and the Knights, but ultimately her gratitude was directed to God. She said that, at every step of her arduous journey, she has met kind and generous people.
‘Though none of us really knows what tomorrow holds, we are called to unceasingly proclaim the faith we have in Christ. The victory ultimately is Christ’s already, and we belong to him — his victory is also ours.’
We could all learn from this faithful woman’s witness, which called to mind a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7).
Returning from Ukraine to Poland, I also witnessed a young woman walking across the border and pulling a single suitcase. I have no idea from how far she had come, nor for how long she had been pulling her suitcase, but I imagined the sadness and anxiety for the future she must be feeling.
Though none of us really knows what tomorrow holds, we are called to unceasingly proclaim the faith we have in Christ. The victory ultimately is Christ’s already, and we belong to him — his victory is also ours.
On the second day of my visit, I traveled to Radom, Poland, which is home to one of our strongest councils. The Knights there were among the first to respond to the crisis, immediately collecting humanitarian aid to send to Ukraine. They also helped create a network to shelter refugees in homes, volunteered at our Mercy Centers on the border and have recently opened their own parish-based Mercy Center to address the long-term needs of refugees.
Why were these and other Knights able to respond so rapidly and with such great generosity? I believe that it is because they are motivated by their love of Jesus Christ, and it is Jesus who inspires them to put their faith into action. These Knights give a great example of the reality that both faith and action are essential to knighthood.
From a worldly perspective, spending Holy Week witnessing the situation in Ukraine and Poland could have simply left me with profound sadness. But I left with both hope and gratitude — hope that the courage and faith of these Ukrainian refugees will sustain them through this crisis, and gratitude that the Lord continues to provide for them, including through so many brother Knights who have been there for them in their time of need.
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