Russia, the world's largest nation in land area, was
long inhabited by nomadic tribes, some Turkic, some Slavic. In the 10th century AD, Viking invaders called Varangians,
some led by a warlord named Rurik, from whom Russia is named, conquered much of European Russia and established several independent
trading cities. The most important of these were Kiev and Novgorad. During the reign of Prince Vladimir in the
late 10th and early 11th centuries, Russia was converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, the Eastern Schism occurred
shortly afterward and the Byzantine influenced Russian church lost its unity with the Catholic Church. In the 13th Century,
Mongol and Tartar invaders conquered Russia and established what came to be known as the "Tartar yoke".
The princes of Moscow led the wars of liberation from
the Tartars and one of them, Ivan the Great, was first to assume the title of Tsar (Caesar) after the fall of Constantinople
to the Turks and the death of the last Byzantine Caesar.
Despite many setbacks and rebellions, subsequent tsars
continued expanding the Russian empire. In November of 1917, Communist revolutionaries seized control of Russia, and
under Lenin, Stalin, and their successors pursued a course of expansion and world revolution. But in 1991, in response
to the prayers of millions, the Communist empire collapsed and many outlying areas became independent of Russia.
The work of the conversion of Russia (See Our
Lady of Fatima) has only just begun. Devastated by 74 years of atheist tyranny, Russia faces the scourges
of contraception and abortion, as well as alcoholism, drug addiction, organized crime, and AIDS.
The Society of Our Lady (SOLT) will be coming to Russia
at the request of Bishop Kiril Klimovich, bishop of Eastern Siberia. This vast area covers 4 million
square miles and is home to sixteen million people. In the summer of 2004, Father James Kelleher, SOLT, Sister Katherine
Malmros, SOLT, and George Riess met with Bishop Klimovich in the city of Irkutsk, a city of 800,000 which
lies 50 miles from Lake Baikal, the largest fresh water lake in the world.
The Bishop approved SOLT sending a permanent mission
team consisting of 2 priests, 2 sisters and 3 or 4 lay people to Eastern Siberia to begin 12 months intensive
Russian language study at a major university in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok. After the completion
of Russian language studies, the Bishop will assign the SOLT mission team to a parish within 500 miles of Vladivostok.
Lady of Fatima
May 13 to October 13, 1917, Our Blessed Lady appeared 6 times to three
shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, at a place near the village
of Fatima in Portugal. Here, in the European country furthest from Russia,
to children who knew little or nothing about that great nation, Our Lady delivered an amazing prophecy linking the fate of
Russia and the world.
She warned that war is a punishment for sin and that a new and greater war would come unless people repented and many
nations would be destroyed. She warned that Russia
(at that time not yet under Communist control) would spread error throughout the world, enslaving many nations and giving
the Holy Father much to suffer.
she also gave hope. Asking the Holy Father to consecrate Russia
to her Immaculate Heart, she promised that in the end Russia
would be converted and the world granted a period of peace. Her presence at the
“Cova de Iria” was confirmed by the miracle of the sun dancing in the sky, witnessed by thousands of people who
had come to pray with the visionaries.
It is in response
to this prophecy that the Society of Our Lady, SOLT, will be sending a permanent mission team to the Russian Far East in August
The icon of Our Lady of
Vladimir is considered to be an 11th century Byzantine work and was brought to Russia in the 12th century, a present from the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Because Kiev was exposed
to nomadic attacks in the 12th century, the capital was moved to Vladimir and the icon was placed in the
Assumption Cathedral there.
In the 13th century the
Mongols attacked Russia and burnt Vladimir. The Russian army carried the icon and proclaimed their hymn: 'He who places his trust
in you, Mother of God, will never perish'. Although the Cathedral was sacked, the icon was miraculously saved.
By the 14th century Moscow had ousted
Vladimir as the capital of Russia. The Mongol domination continued, however, and in 1395 Grand Duke Basil carried the
icon from Vladimir to the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. The Mongols were defeated, and from
then until the final victory by Ivan the Great in 1480, Our Lady of Vladimir was repeatedly invoked by the Russian defenders.
Revival of the devotion
in the West began in 1957 when a teacher discovered the icon in a book of Eastern Christian art. The eyes of the Virgin seemed
to reflect the world's sorrows, and it is this feature that brought forth a great idea: Our Lady of Vladimir could be used
as a focal point for prayers for Russia, for unity among Christians, and for world peace.
Since 1957 devotion to Our
Lady of Vladimir has spread rapidly. The Vladimir story has been translated into many languages and millions are now reciting the Vladimir prayer.
When praying to Our Lady
of Vladimir, we are reminded we are praying in common with millions of fellow Christians throughout the world, including millions