Chapter 5 // Contents // Chapter 7
WHY I CONVERTED TO
THE ORTHODOX FAITH
It was obvious that George was lacking experience. That summer, he caused a dispute when he picked an argument with a group led by an irregular priest, causing the superiors of the Jesuit Order to be very displeased with his ineptness.
The real difficulties began in the autumn, when the government removed all the priests of the various orders from the seminaries, forcing them to live as laymen. George naively believed that this was a good thing, as from this moment he would belong to the secret Order of the Jesuits.
He worked in two successive jobs. Scattered around the city were rooms offered by the Jesuit Order, where it's young members could live, two to a room. George was unlucky to be living with a family where the mother had been catechized by a schismatic priest, causing all their anticlerical feelings to be focused on George. One day, he tore up one of their towels in anger, which in turn caused another quarrel.
"You're not even capable of cleaning our room. Here, this is how you should clean it", voiced his roommate in the tone of an executioner. He was two years older than George and was well-liked by the landlord as he was a social person.
The priests of the order also looked after the spiritual education of the religious students. So George found himself again under the guidance of Father Pomenski, who was the spiritual father for the novice priests.
"At our monastery it was usual to perform the Holy Eucharist after meals. Here you are all far away from the Church, so at least kneel in front of your table and chant the blessing of the Eucharist." Father Pomenski used to say these words to his students every now and then.
When the young secret monks were not working in the factories, they were occupied with reading, saying prayers and other spiritual exercises. On other occasions, they would meet in nearby parks, where they would receive instructions or else just gather themselves spiritually.
On major holidays, the students would wear their cassocks under their long coats and go to the various city parishes as clergymen. They practiced the various duties of the deacons and the sundeacons. Being already enthusiastic about the Byzantine philosophy and form, George found himself liking the liturgy very much. He was also getting to like Latin. His favourites were the services of the Holy Week, the four notes of the Byzantine music and preparing for the liturgy at Christmas. His heart filled with joy as he chanted the Apostolos in Byzantine tones during the Christmas service at a suburban church:
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2, 11-13).
Whenever George had a spare moment at work, he would go into the corridor of the factory and silently count his prayers on his rosary, which he had hidden in his pocket, as he recited them. When another employee saw the peaceful expression on George's face, he realized that George had been praying.
Once again the officials of the order were unhappy with George, as they considered that his attitude was a sign of not being able to adapt. They believed that the external appearance of the faithful should not show what their soul was feeling. But these ignorant priests ignored the fact that Orthodox theology was based on the assertion that the experience is reflected both in the face and in the body of the faithful.
To avoid any problems at work, the students were advised by church officials to eat meat on the days of fasting. Consequently, on Ash Wednesday in 1953 (the first day of Lent), George sat down and really enjoyed his meat dish. An elderly worker sitting nearby saw this and offered George his meat portion. So on this very important day of fasting for the Catholics, George wolfed down two portions of meat, causing the church officials to rethink again. They then became more strict with the students and would not allow them too much leeway in the future.
Soon after this incident, George did not touch his meat portion on a Friday and this was observed by a fellow employee.
"Look! Anachronism in our times! In 1953 a young Hungarian is not eating meat on a Friday!' Comrade Rosa Svitcher's voice reverberated throughout the dining-room. Being the factory cook, and incidently a Jewess, she ran to the management and reported this scandal.
When George first started working at the factory, he worked very hard, but soon slowed down to protect his health. But he didn't want to remain idle, as idleness made him feel as if he was in hell. Above everything, hell meant that the spark of life was missing from a person. The increasing production rate at the factory also gave George the feeling that he was in hell, as he had to listen to the neverending swearing by both employers and employees.
"If only the faithful would take these poor wretched workers as an example and remember God as often as they swore, he murmured to himself.
Yet behind the scenes, a bitter disappointment was waiting for our young idealist - he was forced to leave the Jesuit Order. He had sacrificed his family and his career for the order; he was prepared to offer his soul to be able to live the life of a monk. All this was neutralized by his "ineptitude." He was shattered. This was the hardest blow he had ever received, and also the most unexpected. But to be honest, he was not suited for the monastery.
When he later described this episode to his Orthodox friends, they found it amusing, hearing about the superficial and deceitful attitudes of the Jesuit monks and about the virtue of their ineptness.
Chapter 5 // Contents // Chapter 7
Page created: 30-9-2006.
Last update: 12-6-2008.