Chapter 6 // Contents // Chapter 8
WHY I CONVERTED TO
THE ORTHODOX FAITH
In a small hut outside Budapest, Father Michael Dennis, the historian of the Order of the Jesuits, was sitting behind a stack of books as he spoke to George Pap.
"The church officials said that they would reinstate you if you wrote a good historical essay. Come, eat this slice of bread with honey.... My goodness, how clumsy you are!" George had placed a large spoonful of honey on a small slice of bread and he was scooping up the honey as it trickled over the sides of the bread.
They worked together for two years, followed by years of friendship. Father Dennis set George to research the historical role of the Jesuits in the unification of the Rumanian Orthodox with the Catholic Church in the Hungary and Transylvania of many years ago.
The librarians were pretty wary of this strange worker who worked in a car-manufacturing company and was interested in theology. One librarian from the National Library in Budapest told George that he would probably not be allowed to take out books on theology and that he should concentrate on subjects concerning cars.
The central library of the Order was hidden in a large attic, with books scattered everywhere, and this was where George found many books that would help him in his research.
Returning home by tram, the father would speak in Latin so that people would not realize that they were priests. This of course, caused the opposite. People realized who they were, as who else but priests would speak Latin? Being naive and retiring, the good-natured father was just someone who was not in favour with officials of the Order.
As George examined the historical Jesuit documents that were relevant to Orthodoxy, he often came across the observation that the Orthodox were "stubbornly devoted" to their functions, their fastings, their traditions. But why such perseverance?
He had come across certain Orthodox traditions and understood that they mesmerized the people who would not want these traditions to be sacrificed.
On the other hand, when leafing through various Orthodox documents, he did not get the same feeling of being with Christ, as he did from the Patrology of Bertold Altaner. Wasn't Orthodoxy just an extension of the first Church? One day, while browsing through the National Archives, our young student accidentally came across a series of unpublished documents based on the deep dislike that the Orthodox felt for the Roman Church. One important document shed light on a subject which had caused Catholic and Orthodox historians to have differing opinions - the subject was whether the Rumanians, who in 1737 lived around the town known today as Oratea, had joined the Catholics or not. This document referred to the previous year (1736) and was penned by the Latin bishop of the town. He proved conclusively how right the Orthodox were, by not accepting unification with the Catholics.
"Not a single Rumanian wants to have anything to do with the Pope of Rome", confessed the bishop in a letter to a monk in the Jesuit Order, "But they wanted to escape the heavy financial contributions they were forced to make to their schismatic Orthodox bishop, so they are prepared to be financially dependent on us. Their true conversion will surely come about with time." And this was the beginning of the formation of the Uniate Church in that region. The method used by the Roman Catholic Church for the conversion of the! Orthodoxy was truly ridiculous! George found it very difficult to interpret all this information.
There was a meeting of all the student group leaders at the Higher Teaching Academy in Budapest and our friend George Pap was present. But how did he manage to be present at such a formal and secret meeting?
To escape his two or three-year military service, George enrolled at the Higher Teaching School for Russian Literature no less, which was of special interest to him. Since his high school grades were high and his relationship with the seminary had been forgotten, he was promoted to be the "leader" of a group of sixteen students.
"Every six months you are required to write a report concerning the personal and political conduct of each student in your group, their studies, their participation in group work; and their possible religious prejudices", stated church officials.
George trembled with fear after hearing this. How could he, an ex-religious student, spy on his fellow students? Nevertheless, he sat down and drafted these reports, the data of which were spontaneously composed by himself. He always tried to present his students favourably and always found the opportunity to show them his reports, and a warm friendly feeling soon developed between them. Even though he made no mention of the students' relationship with the Church, his reports were held in high esteem by church officials.
Each group was lead by a trio, which was comprised of the leader, the person in charge of the young and the cell representative of the Communist party. George was pleasantly surprised when he discovered that two members of the trio, the youth leader and himself, had both been preparing for the monastic life in two different Orders. Another student in the group, Steven Spaiber, was a member of the Jesuit Order. These secret monks were the best students in the group. Even their Russian Literature teacher, Vera Andreyievna Schenko, who came from an important Stalinist family in the Soviet Union and was presently married to the Hungarian Minister of Industries, considered them "hard-working students". Since she had suffered so much throughout her life, she was an absolute terror, causing scenes with the students every day and it was only with Christian tolerance that the students could endure her.
"Are there any leaders amongst you?" she asked her class, before starting the lesson.
George raised his hand without speaking. "I don't like leaders!" she said, throwing a sponge at him. The students soon had to memorize the most significant poems in Russian literature, and recite a new poem every day in class. Since George loved poetry, he soon found himself learning the language. Vera Andreyievna would speak to them only in Russian:
"The Apostles! The Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to mythology, are Peter, John, Nicholas the miracle-worker and Sergio of Radonez", she would say in a pitched tone.
Since she had been an atheist since her teens, she didn't know much about religion, but once, in a moment of truth, she confessed to her students that she could not answer their questions as to whether there was a God or not. But, she continued, there was a possibility that He existed.
The prospective priests faced a difficult situation on the night of St. Nicholas, when they had to dance with the girls. How could they excuse themselves if they refused to dance? Could they mention that they were secretly training to be priests?
On this particular night George unintentionally insulted a young poor girl when he gave her a gift which humiliated her.
He felt guilty afterwards. It's right that we ask God for forgiveness for all our "voluntary and involuntary" sins.
After two years George received his diploma from the Teaching School. During this period he also secretly practiced his catechism and was accepted back into the Jesuit Order, living again the life of a secret novice. Basically, George rejoined the Jesuits in order to regain his prestige. And later, when he felt it necessary for him to leave the Order, criticisms which had been directed at him were found to be justified.
Soon after, George Pap was called up into the army for three months. During this period, many leaders of the Jesuit Order were arrested by the Communist police, and Father Pomensky was one of them. This was followed by another interesting event.
Steven Spaiber, a model student for all the new students of the Order and a favourite of Father Pomensky's, fell ill and, had to go into hospital. There, he fell in love with a nurse and left the Order - in other words, as soon as he left this centre of Roman Catholic ideology, he immediately lost his faith. This indicated that he had been attracted more by church organization and less by Christianity. This secret romanticism was in fact a characteristic of many members of the Order, if not all. We wonder if they were flattered by the "wonderful description" given in his book by a previous member of the Jesuits. The author, Dimitri Kis, who was now a mason, had completely lost his faith, but this did not stop him from asking the Pope for his apostolic blessing when the book was published in the West!
Chapter 6 // Contents // Chapter 8
Page created: 12-6-2008.
Last update: 12-6-2008.