Thought for the Day – 14 October – The Memorial of Blessed Roman Lysko (1914–1949) Priest and Martyr
Priest and Martyr Father Roman Lysko refused to sign a statement of conversion to Orthodoxy, remaining faithful to his Church and his people. On 9 September 1949 he was arrested by the NKVD and imprisoned in Lviv. Until 1956, according to information given after his family had been turned away many times, it was said that he died on 14 October 1949 from paralysis of the heart. But many witnesses report that they saw him in prison later, or they heard him singing psalms at the top of his lungs. It was reported that they sealed him up, alive, in a wall. He gave his life as a martyr for the faith. “He was imprisoned on Lontskyi Street. His mother brought him some packages . Sometimes his grandmother came from Zhulychi to visit him. At first the packages were accepted. The prisoner always had a right to thank the giver with the same card [with which the package was sent]. These cards were always sent back, even the bags in which they usually put packages. And there were always those cards, on which he wrote, ‘Thank you. Many kisses,’ and signed it.
Saint Pope John Paul II’s solemn proclamation of the new martyrs and faithful servants of God of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church as blessed, is another divine manifestation to our people. During more than 1,000 years of salvation history on our land, Ukrainian Christians have rejoiced in various signs of God’s presence. The Word has become incarnate among us has been changed into visible sacraments – the healing water of baptism, the oil of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine of the Lord’s paschal feast. They lead us to the divine life. “God is with us!”
From now on from our midst, for us and for the world, the universal Church raises them up as examples of holiness, as heavenly friends of the Lord, humble figures of mortal human beings. Yesterday they lived among us, or among our parents in our cities and villages, bravely fought with the greatest tyrants of human history, against wrongs and injustices done to their brothers and sisters. They also struggled with their own imperfections and with the simple worries of daily life. Their presence here was and now is, incredibly, still felt.
They walked our streets and rode on our roads, sat on our Episcopal thrones and in our confessionals. They gave lectures at solemn conferences and reports from their professorial chairs and studied in our Theological Academy and seminaries. They probably did not think that the terrible trial of martyrdom and its everlasting crown was waiting for them. They wore priestly vestments and the habits of our religious communities and heard stirring words from their spiritual directors about self-giving and self-dedication, which we often hear but receive as something every day, as an abstraction, something unreal and far away in time and space.
Now their figures are strangely close, visible. Through them holiness itself is closer. They bring heaven closer to us – sometimes so unattainable – heaven, where they have gloriously found their place at the hand of the Almighty Father and Our Creator. And the land on which they walked only yesterday has itself become holier, receiving their hot blood and tortured bodies. Walking on this same earth we feel the grandeur of this holiness and the depth of this drama, which they lived through and to which the Lord can call you and me.
Will we be able, here and now and then tomorrow and elsewhere, to respond to this appearance of our Lord? Are we ready to give witness to Christ in everyday life or, God forbid, in the face of mortal danger? We hope in the Lord that this is so. And our first step in this direction is our joyful celebration of these abundant blessings, which have come to us, through the solemn glorification of the new martyrs and faithful servants of God. Let us be glad with them and with certainty follow in their footsteps! … Excerpt – Father Borys Gudziak, Ph.D. is rector of the Lviv Theological Academy and director of the Institute of Church History (written in 2001).