Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky to the Youth

(Webmaster’s Note: We are indebted to the Ukrainian Catholic daily, The New Star, of Chicago, for the following inspirational excerpt.)

Throughout his life Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky was a friend to Ukrainian youth. Like a father, he was concerned with all Ukrainian children. He taught them how to live and work to achieve God’s blessings for themselves and their native land, and whenever the need arose, he extended his kindly hands to help the young people find their way.

Every Ukrainian child dreamed that just once in his life he would be able to look upon the beloved Archbishop, the great son of Ukraine, to just once touch his priestly garb, to hear just one word from his fatherly lips, and to receive a blessing from his kindly hands. But, in 1939, the Bolsheviks swept across the lands of the western Ukraine – Galicia. They used all the means at their disposal to separate the Ukrainian youth from the influence of the Church and to tear the youth away from the protection of the great Metropolitan. They tried to substitute for faith the idolization of “Father Stalin,” and in place of the Church and Christian organizations, they tried to set up “Octobrists,” “Pioneers,” “Komsomols” and others. The goal of the Bolsheviks was very clear: to make the idealistic Ukrainian youth their collaborators and traitors to the Holy Faith. In this way they hoped to raise them up to be persistent, dedicated traitors to their homeland.

It is for this reason that, towards the end of 1939, Metropolitan Andrew wrote his “Letter” to the youth of Ukraine. This has become the best guideline, “prophecy, final teaching, petition and sincere fatherly benediction for all Ukrainian youth.”

Peace and Joy to You All!

You rush to all manner of schools, benefiting from the fact that education is free. It is well that you care about education and learning. For, after Christian piety and God’s grace, learning is the greatest source of strength a person can command. When we speak of education we specify one thing: that the knowledge imparted be true and not composed of falsehoods and lies. For just as true knowledge gives man strength, so false knowledge makes him infirm, crippling him and causing him unhappiness in his life. We know that human nature is marred and that man’s passions pull him toward evil. It is hard for the mind to attain pure and unembellished truth. Therefore, we need the Wisdom of God which knows how to differentiate between real gold and false gold and which, within the multitude of information presented to man, is able to separate that which is necessary and beneficial from that which is false. Let the guiding light of your work in school be first of all your asking of the heavens to bestow upon you that priceless gift of God which is Wisdom.

In every school Christians begin their day with prayer: and you too should do the same. What do we ask for before learning begins? We ask for God’s Wisdom, that precious gift which the Almighty has promised to bestow upon those who ask. God’s Wisdom is the best and most precious asset of the mind. It is the reason that a wise child is more wise at times than the adult who tries to teach it. A child does not have all the detailed information which the adult may have, but if the adult does not have God’s Wisdom, then the child remains superior in his glorious, pure and strong character of mind, which places him on a higher plane than the solely intellectual life of the adult. Strength of mind and brightness do not mean a knowledge of detail, but rather a good in-depth knowledge of how to avoid mistakes and deceptions, and to have a general understanding of the question involved, and knowing which details have no bearing on the discussion of that question or what is not worth bringing up in the discussion. He who knows that the earth is a planet which revolves around the sun knows more about our land than someone who is not aware of this, even though that man is able to count every blade of grass and root in a lawn.

Therefore, in seeking the Wisdom of God, we must daily raise our hands in prayer and repeat: “Almighty God, send down Your Holy Wisdom from the heavens to me. Enlighten my mind and let Your Wisdom lead me along the path of truth. Let it protect me from lies and deception! I ask this through the death on the Cross of Jesus and through the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I ask You, Lord Jesus, for that precious gift! You promised it through the Apostle James to all those who would ask You. I want to be the first among those who will ask. Fulfill Your promise, O Lord, and heed this obedient Christian prayer.”

I urge you also, dear Children, to receive the Holy Sacraments as often as possible. The schools will not encourage you to do this but remember on your own about the Holy Eucharist. This is the special seed of all God’s graces. Draw from it for yourselves, for your parents your relatives, your village and homeland. Jesus Christ, Himself comes to you through the Holy Eucharist. God’s Son wants to be your guest. Then He will enlighten your soul, cleanse it of all traces of sin and fill it with the gifts of God. The spirit in which a man approaches Holy Communion should be respectful and pious. Remember that you must approach Holy Communion with a clear conscience, which means that before receiving Communion you must search within yourself, asking if there has been any grievous sin committed since your last Confession. If there is no trace of sin, you can approach Holy Communion without Confession whenever you want. It is clearly evident that we must prepare well for Holy Communion; that it must be approached with an empty stomach, not to do so only that we be seen by others, or from habit, and not because others do so. We must approach Jesus Christ with the clear intention of receiving His grace. The Priest says: “Come forth in fear of God and in love within your soul for Jesus Christ.” Remember, Children, that it is a grievous sin to approach Holy Communion in disgrace, with a heavy sin upon your conscience. This is a sacrilege of Communion. It is a repetition of the sin of Judas Iscariot. As Judas approached Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene and kissed Him, in his heart there was treachery, for with this kiss he revealed Christ to His enemies. So also, the sinner who approaches Jesus in Communion but who, in his soul, scorns Him and grieves Him, is deprived of grace and blessings. May the Almighty God protect you, dear Children, from this fearful sin which leads the soul into the abyss of sins such as man has no knowledge of.

Be on your guard against sin. Hold on to the teachings of the Church. Just as betrayal of your homeland is a loathsome crime, so too is the betrayal of your Holy Church, your Mother who from childhood to grave leads you along the road and offers up a helping hand when it is needed. Remember that God gave you the great blessing of belonging to the Holy Universal Catholic Church. Love Her and be faithful to Her. Strive on your own to learn the catechism so that you will not forget your daily prayers and your obligation to receive Holy Communion at least four times a year. Try to read religious books. You older children, teach your younger brothers and sisters. Guide them on the true path. Teach them religion. Read religious books to your parents, and to strangers as well, who might forget without your reminders. Urge your parents to daily prayer, morning and evening, and at least once a day read or sing out of the prayerbook together. When you are able to convince your parents, you will have performed a great service to the whole family. The custom of communal prayer is very holy and very Christian. It is also a very important custom. It is proof that God’s blessings exist in such families, that Christ lives among them and guides them along the road of Christian life.

Dear Children, copy my letter for yourself and remember it from time to time. Remind other children of these truths. In this letter, dear Children, I take my leave of you for I do not know whether I will be allowed to work for you and to pray for you. Let this, my letter, be for you my legacy, my last teaching and my sincere paternal blessing.

The blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.