Thursday, 3 March 2011

Blessed Father Emilian Kowcz

Blessed Father Emilian Kowcz
Here is an icon I have been revising for some weeks now and I finally feel I am ready to show it to you.  So, let me begin by telling you all about Blessed Fr. Emilian Kowcz -- a priest of the Ukraine who gave himself up to torture and death out of love for his people.  The following brief account of his life is taken from a related web site with some re-writing and re-wording by me.

Priest and martyr Father Emilian Kowcz was born on 20 August 1884, in Kosmach near Kosiv. After graduating from the College of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1911 as a Ukrainian Catholic priest. He married the year prior to his ordination as Ukrainian Catholic priests are allowed to do.

In 1919 he became field chaplain for the Ukrainian Galician Army. After the war and until his imprisonment he conducted his priestly ministry in Przemysl, at the same time tending to his parishioners’ social and cultural life. He helped the poor and orphans, though he had six children of his own. During World War II he bravely carried out his priestly duties, preaching love to people of all nationalities and rescuing Jews from destruction. He was arrested by the Gestapo on 30 December 1942. He displayed heroic bravery in the concentration camp, protecting the prisoners sentenced to death from falling into despair.

He was burned to death in the ovens of the Majdanek Nazi death camp on 25 March 1944. He was recognized as a "Righteous Ukrainian" by the Jewish Council of Ukraine on 9 September 1999.  He was pronounced blessed by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Lviv in 2001.

"I understand that you are trying to free me. But I am asking you not to do anything. Yesterday they killed 50 persons here. If I I were not here, who would help them to endure these sufferings? I thank God for His kindness to me. Except heaven this is the only place I would like to be. Here we are all equal: Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Latvians and Estonians. I am the only priest here. I couldn’t even imagine what would happen here without me. Here I see God, Who is the same for everybody, regardless of religious distinctions which exist among us. Maybe our Churches are different, but they are all ruled by the same all-powerful God. When I am celebrating the Holy Mass, everyone prays . . .. Don’t worry and don’t despair about my fate. Instead of this, rejoice with me. Pray for those who created this concentration camp and this system. They are the only ones who need prayers... May God have mercy on them..." — From Fr. Emilian Kowcz’s letters written in the concentration camp to relatives.

He was obviously a very loving man who not only was able to bring his own six children to happy adulthood but opened his home constantly to those children in his parish who needed a family.  During World War II, he baptized thousands of Jewish people at their request in an effort to keep as many of them as possible from the ovens.  It was this activity that eventually caused him to be sent to Majdanek.  His life was truly one of sacrificial love -- just like the Lord he sought to imitate.
Below is the icon that was placed in the Church during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2001.  It is a marvelous icon and as my friend, Eugene, said, "the 'official' icon of Kowcz is very simple and basic – but the eyes (slightly drawn to one side) speak to me both of suffering and perseverance, even when encompassed by the barbed wire from which there is obviously no escape, (i.e. it literally stretches from one side of the icon to the other, with no border allowance)."   As well, we see the red robe of a martyr over his prison uniform. 

Blessed Father Emilian Kowcz -- Ukrainian Icon
Although the Ukrainian icon does not show it, I have read that Blessed Father Emilian had very blue eyes -- "strikingly blue" as one author put it.  That was the one facial feature that I really worked at capturing in my icon.  


Now for some more parents and babies from the animal kingdom.

This first one is actually a photo of the King of Beasts as the male lion is sometimes known.

Lion Parent and Child
 From what little I know, I understand that it is unusual for a male lion to be friendly with a cub.  In fact, I have heard that if Papa Lion takes a fancy to the cub, he may just have the cub for a bedtime snack!  So, either this cub is old enough so that Papa is no longer interested or else Papa just happens to be of a rather docile nature.  Anyway, it makes a lovely photo, I think.

Sea Lion Parent and Child
It is always difficult for me to tell the difference between Sea Lions and Seals, but in this case I feel confident I have chosen the right one.  The reason being is that I found the photo under a group of photos labelled Sea Lions!  See how clever I am!!

Wolf "Parent" and Child
The reason I put the word parent in quote marks in the above title is because wolf uncles and aunts also parent the child.  Since wolves live in a community created by extended family, the parenting duties are passed around a bit and poor old mom (or dad, in some cases) doesn't have to do it all.  Wolves are such wonderful creatures.  I do hope that human beings never manage to get rid of them.


Finally tonight, I want to show you a picture of my oldest sister and her husband.  They are both deceased now and I miss them very much.
B. K. and Betty
The reason for putting their photo in my blog is because this coming Sunday is the anniversary of my sister, Betty's, death.  I have been thinking about her a lot these past days -- as well as B. K., her husband.  They were so good to me and I have so many wonderful memories of our times together.  And, I miss them both very much.  May they both rest in peace.

May the peace of God be with you all.

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