Skip to comments.Praying “under the covers” in an atheist country
Posted on 04/26/2013 11:56:41 AM PDT by NYer
What’s it like to live and pray in an officially atheist state? CNS has a fascinating interview with Maria Dhimitri, who lived that way in Albania:
“They said God didn’t exist. I couldn’t come to church or pray or speak of God at all,” she said of the communist regime that came to power in her country soon after World War II. The regime made worshipping increasingly difficult and finally imposed a ban on religion in the country in 1967, making Albania the first and only constitutionally atheist state.
Dhimitri was teaching piano at one of the country’s top conservatories for music in the capital, Tirana, and was married with two small children when the ban went into effect.
“All the priests were arrested and killed, or put in jail,” she said of its rapid and violent enforcement by government officials, who immediately closed of every church and mosque in the country.
Having been raised by a “staunchly Catholic family” from the traditionally Catholic stronghold of Shkoder, Dhimitri said “to stop praying … never crossed my mind.”
She said she knew that to show any sign of faith in public would endanger not just her, but the lives of her entire family, so she resorted to praying in the secrecy of the family’s Tirana apartment, with utmost care and sometimes “under the covers.”
“As they say, walls have ears, and there were (state) spies everywhere,” said Dhimitri, who said her children understood instinctively not to speak of their Catholic faith.
“We prayed at home, in private, out of sight of the neighbors,” said Dhimitri, adding that “many other Catholics and Orthodox prayed secretly as well … and many Muslims, too.”
“On Christmas or Easter we might cook a chicken, or have a small cake,” she said of the “hidden celebrations” during the years of the ban.
Read the rest.
We have a new family that just joined our parish. Like this woman, they come from Albania. The wife explained that she grew up with no faith. One of our parishioners invited her to visit the parish with her husband and 3 children. They have been coming ever since. She said to me last week, “I leave here each week with so much peace in my heart. We are so excited to become Catholic!”
You mean like New York?
Can’t she prayer silently?
Your parish is doing good work. It is essential bring people to Christ, especially those who have suffered without Him due to left wing nutjobs.
I would assume she was praying out loud in order to teach her children.
Sure ... she can pray silently in the secrecy of her home. She is Catholic, though, and was denied the sacraments of her faith.
Have you ever seen a video of what happened in Russia and the Ukraine under communist rule? I have watched several; they are all heartbreaking. In one video, you see people running out of the churches clutching crucifixes, icons, prayer books while the soviets use cranes and wrecking balls to tear down the physical structure. These believers went underground. From time to time, a priest would visit, traveling under the darkness of night. Meanwhile, the christians would gather in the house of a believer, scheduling their arrivals in large gaps so as not to alert other villagers. The homes often had a hidden room where they would hide the priest.
Recently I watched another video. This one showed a priest sent to re-establish the christian community in 1991, following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The area to which he was assigned was equal in size to Portugal, Spain, France and Germany combined. He was the ONLY priest! When he needed to go to confession, he had to board a plane and travel to Moscow. As he began to rebuild the community, he asked the children to assist him with the prayer books that were written in a liturgical form of the language with which he was unfamiliar. It took him two years to learn that language after which he realized that not even the children were familiar with it and had given him nonsense words to say. He met an old woman who explained how when the KGB came to their village, they went to the school and asked the children: "which of you pray with mama or papa at home?" Her two children raised their hands. They were taken to a re-education facility and the woman was arrested at her job. She was sent to a concentration camp. After several months, a KGB officer took her to a large field, handed her a shovel and told her to dig her grave. When she had finished, he used the butt of his rifle to shove her into the grave, pointed the rifle at her and asked: "Your God is or is not" (meaning is your God real?) She realized that if she said "My God is.", she would never see her children again. If she said, "My God is not.", she would never see God (Mat 10:33). She responded: "My God is." She was very surprised when the officer did not shoot her. Several months later, she was released from the camp and reunited with her children. After that, she never spoke about faith again with her children.
You can get a sense of what life was like from this video. In it, a young girl speaks about the persecution suffered by her great grandparents during the communist years.