Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Calciu on America

I just got the July-August 2007 issue of The Orthodox Word. (I recently subscribed, so I don't know if they're just behind schedule or still sending me free back issues.) This issue is devoted to Fr. George Calciu, of blessed memory--a Romanian confessor who suffered under Communist persecution and died a little over a year ago of pancreatic cancer. I never met Fr. George, but he was the spiritual father of my spiritual father and of some of my friends. For the last several years of his life, he pastored a Romanian parish in Northern Virginia. I can't recall exactly if I've ever heard the term "saint" applied to Fr. George, but the sentiment seems to be there in those who knew him.

The issue contains two previously unpublished talks by Fr. George, as well as a brief biography and an account of his final days. There's a lot of good material here, but I thought the last paragraph, from a Q&A session that followed his talk on "The Inner Church" (2001), was particularly noteworthy. After describing France as a "lost country," he continues:
When I returned to America from France, I took a cab from the airport to my house, and the driver started to talk to me about God, about the Bible. In shops people often start talking to me about God, about the Bible. As long as simple people speak about God, as long as simple people read the Bible, America is saved. For despite all the mistakes America has made, despite the war against Yugoslavia, despite all the killings of people, despite everything, America is blessed by God--not because Clinton or another president says, "God bless America," but because of these simple people who speak of God, worship God, read the Bible, and preserve America against every evil and every attack of the devil.
I should add that Fr. George in his other talk does not shy away from criticizing "the invasion of American and Protestant-style 'evangelization'" in Romania. He is no ecumenist, and he clearly sees Protestantism as deficient, if not at times downright anti-Christian. But note the contrast when it comes to talking about American people, most of whom are not Orthodox. He does not say they are perfect, he does not say their theology is altogether right, he does not say they have nothing important to learn. But he does say that they are good, that they have faith, that they genuinely worship God, and that they are instrumental in the spiritual war. And all this, without being Orthodox!

I don't know where we would be without persecution in the world, because it seems that without it we would lack the perspective of those, like Fr. George, who have walked through the very depths of hell. Persecution solidified his faith into something that could not keep silent (so much so, that he was re-imprisoned and after Western pressure was exiled from his homeland), but it also softened his heart toward broken humanity. Here was a man who learned to love his God-hating torturers; it does not seem so surprising that he could also see in the "simple people" of America a goodness and genuine spirit that survives, even amidst sectarianism, heresy, and imperialism. I know I, for one, need voices like his to remind me every now and then.

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