Chapter 3 // Contents // Chapter 5
WHY I CONVERTED TO
THE ORTHODOX FAITH
The battle on the family front!
One evening, a childhood friend of George Pap celebrated her birthday by having a party in her large apartment in Budapest. The boys and girls at the party drank soft-drinks, ate the delicious home-made pastries and sweets and danced to records.
Almost everyone was dancing the waltz, while young George sat next to a young girl and discussed his beloved history.
"I am starting to research the Brotherhood of the Virgin Mary".
The young girl, being in the flattering mood which only women can be in, replied:
' O, what a wonderful idea! I would like to become a nun one day. I am studying at the Ursulines, but I'm afraid that the future will not favour my plans".
"But what are you saying", replied young George. "The life of a nun has her inner strength to overcome all obstacles and to carry on in life. The nuns will undoubtedly organize themselves soon".
They continued their discussion, George trying very hard to reinforce the presumed monastic inclinations of the young girl. At the end of the evening, in keeping with the festivities, they danced together. As everyone was leaving, the hostess whispered slyly in George's ear that the young girl was very attractive. George went red with embarrassment and finally realized that he was facing another temptation. Returning home with his father, he sulkily told him that this was the last time he would go to this kind of party.
In fact, when George was sixteen, he decided that he would become an unmarried Catholic priest. The thought of not having offspring was worrying, but he decided that chastity and celibacy was not unbearable. Earlier, when his father had spoken to him about the facts of life in a very blunt manner, George had decided that here existed a sacred part of life, which was the power given to man by God. Since then, he would not break his vow of chastity.
His plans were finally settled in his last year of high school, when he began to frequent the monastery of the Order of the Jesuits, situated in a picturesque setting by the side of a hill. George chose this Order as being the most aggressive of all the Catholic Ōrders in Hungary, and there were so many causes to be aggressive about in Hungary. The order also offered a solid education for its inmates. George was very happy to find a priest in the Order who had specialized in history; another discovery was a very polite clergyman who concerned himself with the young and their problems.
George was considering joining the order very soon. Most of the candidates were from the intellectual youth of the country, all practicing Catholics.
The only drawback was Father Louis Pomenski, George's mentor. The problems he caused were due to the fact that, as an old curator in the boy-scouts, he believed that the will and the body of a priest were always being tested and therefore, he wanted George to attend the daily liturgy. Catholics usually measure the devoutness of someone by the frequency of their attendance at Holy Communion. But George studied late at night and needed to rest in the mornings, and since he could not satisfy the wishes of Father Pomenski, the mentor started having doubts about George's calling for the priesthood. Father Pomenski gave the impression of being a hypocrite, by following the rules of the Order to the letter and never looking at someone when he was talking to them.
George would greet him in Latin: "Laudetur Jesus Christus" ("Glorified be Jesus Christ").
Father Pomenski would grimace piously and reply, "In sae-cu-lum, amen" ("forever, amen"), while putting on his shoes and rubbing his hands together. Basically, the father was looking for a way to be rid of George since they were not suited for each other and he also felt that he was just wasting his time with the youngster.
As George Pap neared the end of the school year, his mother mobilized all their relatives and even a priest friend, to try and persuade George not to become a priest, but it was all to no avail as George would not budge. But the real difficulty appeared in the Spring of 1950 and came from an unexpected direction, appearing before George had finished high school and after he had been accepted into the Order of the Jesuits. His mother showed him an article in the newspaper, which was an attack by Revay on the religious orders in general and on the Order of the Jesuits in particular. Revay, who was then the most important theoretician in the Communist party, and one of the top men in the leadership, openly attacked the religious orders, saying "these reactionary organizations of our clergymen are totally useless, "and called the Order of the Jesuits "the advance guard of the dark powers".
The results of this attack were expected and occurred that night. The police rounded up all the priests from the monasteries and placed them in certain areas where they could be kept under observation. Just before George became a novice in the order, he found out that the road that he had chosen was filled with obstacles.
The summer arrived and George spent his vacation with some family friends in a small village in northern Hungary. He sunbathed next to the pool, but his thoughts were elsewhere.
He was seriously thinking of leaving his country, since it would not allow him to follow his destiny. He knew very well that all the roads near the borders were mined, but wondered if Lake Ferte near the Austrian border was guarded.
Feeling desperate after his inability to leave Hungary, George decided to bombard the heavens with his prayers, hoping for a miracle. Every hour he repeated the following prayer (the contents of which were in bad taste) called The People's Devotion for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Wherever he was -at home, walking, by the pool - he repeated his prayer, causing his mother to blow her top.
Just before the final high school examinations, the Ministry of Education sent questionnaires to all the students, asking which college or university they would like to attend. To avoid creating problems before the examinations, George lied and wrote that he would like to attend the School of History and Literature at the University. When he returned from his vacation, he found a note from the Ministry stating that he had been accepted at the Lenin Institute, to study Russian Literature.
Iím not going! Iíll be going to the religious seminary! End of discussion!" George's reply was brief and to the point.
His mother's answer was also brief but more violent - she threw all his religious books, which he had just unpacked, onto the floor. They fought bitterly over the next several weeks. One time, his father came very close to striking him. His mother relented somewhat, but still insisted that George learn a trade, so that he would be able to earn a living if the priests were banned completely. She finally gave way, but asked George not to go immediately to the religious seminary, but to spend a year at home instead, just doing whatever he pleased. Afterwards, he could attend the seminary. That was her only wish and George agreed.
He spent a year at home with his parents, but signed up at the Theological Academy, so as not to waste the year. The Academy had not been closed by the government as its graduates were clergymen for the town parishes and not priests. He attended the theology courses every day. George may have lost several battles with his mother, but he had won the war; his mother realized this and consequently suffered.
To placate his mother, who had always wanted him to study Russian literature, George enrolled at night-school to learn Russian, even though he felt that as a priest he would have no use for it. This move was to play an important role in his future.
It was strange that his interest in Eastern Orthodoxy was kindled by his mother's refusal to accept his calling. George's plans at this stage, were that eventually he would be a missionary for the Catholic Church in Russia. The following year, he entered the central seminary in Budapest, which was a subsidiary institute of the Theological Academy.
For several months now, George's mother refused to come and visit him, and when she finally did visit him she deliberately wore black. On another occasion, when she saw him walking in the street, she avoided him so as not to meet him. The truth was, sometimes George did present a humorous sight; he shaved his head completely when he entered the Academy, just like the students at the seminary. An old religious teacher of George commented that George reminded him of the Dalai Lama.
Chapter 3 // Contents // Chapter 5
Page created: 30-9-2006.
Last update: 12-6-2008.