Chapter 1 // Contents // Chapter 3
WHY I CONVERTED TO
THE ORTHODOX FAITH
The teddy-bear that became bald!
A young monk once said that we have a "plugged volcano" inside us and that we have to return to our childhood years to relieve this volcano.
When George Pap was very young, a certain episode occurred which, years later, his mother would relate with a certain touch of good-natured irony. While looking through a book, George noticed a picture of a fox in the act of grabbing a chicken covered with blood. Our young reader, in trying to find an interpretation that was well-meaning, asked his mother:
"Mama, the fox isn't really trying to eat the chicken! He's only kissing it, isn't that so?"
This naivety of George, peculiar as it may sound, seemed to hide something genuine in him - his genuine love for life! The realism and the materialistic convictions of his parents were not for him. When a young friend of George's died, his mother told him that when he would meet his friend's mother he should kiss her and say:
"I feel very sorry for the unfortunate boy". The word "unfortunate" was always used by the faithless in connection with the death of someone, which was of little comfort for the end of a life. But this was our fate, according to George's parents.
Except for a few chosen friends, the only other childhood companions George had were his furry teddy-bears. Using these as an extension of himself and as a means of retiring into himself, he attempted his first eventful steps into the real world around him.
When he was seven years old, his teddy-bears caused him great sorrow. While on vacation with his parents at Lake Balanton, a suitcase, with his "companions" inside, was forgotten on the train, after travelling down to the beautiful lake. This was a tragedy of great proportions for the young lad. To try and console him, his parents made a number of teddy-bears, identical to the ones lost, even down to the clothes they wore. Then, they were supposedly found and forwarded by post to where the family was staying.
But as soon as George saw the teddy-bears, he realized that they were not his real companions and burst into tears. He then ran away and hid. This crisis was even greater than when he had lost them, as he considered them "people companions" and not "toy companions", and a person was irreplaceable. The mother that lost a child was not easily consoled by her other children. An impersonal continuation of life after death torments us more and is not in the least consolable. Unfortunately, this applies to the Hindus and the pantheists. They say that time heals, but this is not always true. There are many mothers that still wait for their sons to return after a war, even after many years have passed.
George Pap seemed to forget his little teddy-bears with time, and began playing the game of life; that of growing-up. Something then happened which brought the whole problem out into the open with all its intensity. Ten years later, when George was seventeen, he was searching through his cupboard for something when he found Muki. Muki had been his favourite teddy-bear, with her pointed little nose and her sly slanting eyes. But her ears had become unstuck and her fur had fallen in patches.
Feeling the wear and tear of his Muki with his hands, the young teenager felt a sense of shock. His whole world, as he knew it, was crumbling inside him. He wandered around his room crying his heart out. His parents tried to console him but to no avail, as he had a very sensitive nature. Many people felt that being sensitive was a sign of weakness - in reality, this sensitivity showed signs of extreme awareness for certain realities which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. By utilizing this sensitivity, artists and writers add some spice to our otherwise dull existence.
The believers are the ones that never stray from reality. By examining the facts carefully, we realize that the faithless follow the policy of the ostrich and avoid the realities of life. George's parents tried to hide the facts of death from him, when his grandmother (on his father's side) died. George was six years old then and searched in vain for his grandmother, and only when he learnt to read and noticed her name on a tombstone, he discovered that she had died.
The loss of a friend, when he was twelve, brought further sorrow. But this time he discovered a source of consolation inside him. He had just read the religious novel "Quo Vadis" by Henryk Sienkiewicz. His soul discovered peace the same way that calm follows the storm. It was Spring and the trees in the parks began to bud and to show off their new life. This period coincided with the school-children preparing themselves spiritually for confession and for the Easter celebration which followed. Since then, this special day of Resurrection became the "festival of all festivals" for George and it became his favourite.
The war reached Budapest in 1945 and an artillery shell killed a cousin of George's, who happened to be an only child. Young George tried to console his aunt using words which were inspired by his religion. But these words did not carry much conviction as they were not yet deeply rooted inside him; the real conversion was to come later. His aunt looked at him sadly and said:
"Can you, my son, actually believe in all this?"
On the second anniversary of her son's death, his aunt committed suicide. What a sad ending, which was caused mainly by not being a believer. Being faithless was almost hereditary in the "bourgeoisie" or middle-class of that era, and George's parent's belonged to that class.
George was beginning however, to open his spiritual eyes more and more. After finishing high school, and being now a practicing Catholic, George faced another death. A fellow student had just died and their Latin teacher, who was a very good and conscientious teacher, encouraged the class to write to the bereaved family, offering the usual condolences. But the students used simple words filled with love. As George accompanied the coffin to it's final resting-place, he felt no sorrow. A dreamlike happiness filled his soul. At that moment, he wanted to hug and kiss the parents of his dead friend, and to transmit to them the resurrecting feeling of faith that was pulsating through his body - the feeling of faith that since then would remain rooted in his heart. But how had this spiritual change in him come about?
Page created: 30-9-2006.
Last update: 12-6-2008.