Years ago I accidentally overheard an exchange between a Russian Orthodox priest and a Russian woman who was probably in her late 70s, whose face was riven with care-worn creases. The priest mentioned to her some difficulty he was having with vandalism at the Church, and the irritations of the bureaucratic process of placing an insurance claim. She quipped back, in her Slavic accent:
What did you expect, Father, roses? Christ is not in the rose business.
Thank you for the correction, Babushka.
Babushka is, I think, the word commonly used for old grandmothers in Russia.
That made me think of a famous quote I first heard in my Russian literature class from the infamous Russian communist dictator, Joseph Stalin:
When the old women of Russia die, the Church will die.
To that effect, this priest at a later occasion said to me,
These are the women every priest must listen to if he wants to be a saint.
As I recalled this exchange in a conversation with a seminarian the other day, I recalled a Flannery O’Connor quote that I had just happened on in a book that I highly recommend, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor.
What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.