Neither Roses Nor Blankets

Ruski Roses

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.

He said,

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.

Electric Blankets

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.

6 comments on “Neither Roses Nor Blankets

  1. Rosary Maker says:

    In lies the sainthood of Therese of Lisieux as she understood and followed Christ and his cross. Yet, the splendors of the rose which reveal themselves within the suffering were part of her path to holiness.

    • Yes, yet another image for the rose! Therese loved the rose to describe grace. Thanks for adding that insight! This Russian woman was no doubt playing on the colloquial English saying, “I never promised you a rose garden,” made popular decades ago by Hannah Green (and the pop song, of course!) — her famous line in the novel by the same name captures it perfectly: “I never promised you a rose garden. I never promised you perfect justice and I never promised you peace or happiness. My help is that so you can be free to fight for all of these things. The only reality I offer is challenge, and being well is being free to accept it or not at whatever level you are capable. I never promise lies, and the rose-garden world of perfection is a lie…and a bore too!”

  2. George says:

    You are correct. Babushka does mean “grandmother” in Slavic.

    George Fincik

  3. WoopieCushion says:

    Long live the BABUSHKAS!!! : )

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