Anna (1882-1936) and Vladimir (1880-1966) Abrikosov.
Anna Abrikosova (1882-1936) (Left)
THE MOTHER OF GOD CHAPTER RUSSIAN APOSTOLATE.
By Mrs. Gail A. Waterman, T.O.P. Mother of God Chapter West Springfield, Massachusetts U.S.A., and Published in Torch-lites Newsletter beg. Apr-May-June 1995 Dominican Laity St. Joseph Province Newsletter
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE DOMINICAN RUSSIAN APOSTOLIC MISSION
The Dominican Russian Apostolate actually began over 700 years ago. It was inspired by the exhortation St. Dominic (1170-1221) gave to his friars, "We must sow the seed, not hoard it" (Jarret 70). And then he sent them out, two by two, from their safe havens, to all parts of the known world, to become "champions of the faith and the true lights of the world." So you see, it's not hard for me to understand why some Dominicans are both traveler and planter of seeds as they travel the highways and byways.
Like our Lord, Dominic's field of apostolic work, to the very end of his life, was the entire world. Nostalgia for his mission to the pagans found Dominic at the chapter meeting of 1221 organizing "regions that will be bases for undefined missions"--Scandinavia, which opened on to the great North, Poland, becoming to Russia, and Hungary, the gateway to Asia. Dominic's concept of universality defines the reason and need for a direct connection to the papacy, which was the source of all missions, and it gives Dominic's ecclesiastical vision a definitive direction" (Bedouelle 46).
St. Dominic longed to reach Tartary (Russia) but never reached his apostolic goal. "Dominic schemed and toiled to get into Tartary; again and again his blood was shed in the effort to Christianize a nation that had demonstrated time after time that it did not want Christianity" (Dorcy 155-156).
The people of our time know, very well, that over the past 700 years, the seeds of faith have, indeed, been planted in Russia. And Mary, the Mother of God, continues to call her Dominican children to work in her beloved vineyard.
Early 20th century witnessed a revolution that sent Holy Mother Church in Russia reeling back in time to almost 2000 years when the early Christians were murdered, persecuted, and sent to prison rather than deny their faith and belief in the existence of God. The Communist revolution was a total uprising against God. Like the early Christians, the Church in Russia was forced to go underground into the catacombs. "The Communists turned the great Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in St. Petersburg into a museum of atheism. It then became the center of world militant atheism, and the Communist Party's official publications were produced on the printing presses which they installed in the crypt.
“Following the 1917 Revolution, the Communists seized all the Church's treasures and stored them in warehouses, and the use or possession of any article of religious significance was outlawed. In 1936, the Communist destroyed the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in Moscow" (Tindal-Robertson 71) which housed the original Icon of Our Lady of Kazan. While churches burned, Lenin could be heard shouting, "Where is your God now?" And from the rubble and smoke of these smoldering ashes OUR LADY RESPONDED to Lenin's ridicule by appearing on the other side of Europe, at Fatima, and spoke specifically of Russia, promising that "in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph... Russia will be converted!" Six times she called Western Christendom to prayer, conversion, penance and consecration to her Immaculate Heart, so that Russia would be converted instead of becoming Satan's henchman and the ruin of countless souls. For Our Lady added to her appeal, 'If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted; if not it will spread its errors throughout the whole world, unleashing wars and religious persecutions. Many good people will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and entire peoples will be destroyed'. God confirmed these words with the miracle of the sun" (Tindal-Robertson 80).
Somehow, the original Icon of Our Lady of Kazan was smuggled out of Russia, and in 1950, the year Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption, it was found in Farleigh castle in England. It was recognized as authentic by the Grand Duchess Zenia, and through the tests of experts its true identity was firmly established. In 1963 the Blue Army constructed a large Byzantine chapel in Fatima, Portugal, and duly "redeemed" the priceless Icon enshrined therein, to await its return to "Holy Mother Russia"
Fatima Russia & Pope John Paul II, Timothy Tindal-Robertson 1992).
Living in Moscow at the time of the 1917 revolution was a most outstanding couple, Anna (1882-1936) and Vladimir (1880-1966) Abrikosov.
After reading St. Catherine of Siena's Dialogue and works of Henri Lacordaire, O.P., they wished to learn more about the faith. "After a year in Rome studying theology they were received into the Catholic communion at the Church of the Magdalene in Paris in 1909" (Nichols 165).
Upon their return to Russia, the Abrikosovs found a group of Dominican tertiaries which had been established earlier by a certain Natalie Rozanova. They were received into the Third Order, circa 1911, by Albert Libercier, O.P. of the Muscovite Church of St. Louis.
During the winter of 1910, the Abrikosovs entertained a young seminarian named, Leonid Fedorov (1879-1935) from St. Petersburg. Leonid's widowed mother ran a restaurant much frequented by another convert to Catholicism, Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900). It was through many conversations and discussions that Leonid was inspired to take his faith more seriously, and after high school he entered the St. Petersburg Ecclesiastical Academy. Leonid later became 'Exarch of the Greek Catholic Church of Russia. His "overall objective was the corporate reconciliation of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches via that of their respective hierarchies" (Nichols 167). It's not hard to see and compare Soloviev's influence in Leonid's thinking. "Soloviev's apocalyptic ecclesiological speculations included dreams of co-operation between the Tsar, as Christ's representative in his kingly office, and the Pope, his representative in the priestly office" (Nichols 165).
Pope John Paul II writes about Soloviev, "The theology of the Fathers, especially in the East, broke away more and more from Plato and from philosophers in general. Philosophy itself, in the Fathers, ends up in theology (as in the case, for example, in modern times, of Vladimir Soloviev (John Paul II 29)." He was perhaps Russia's greatest philosopher, as well as, poet, and mystic.
In retrospect, Professor J. Joseph Lake (currently teaching Russian Language and Literature, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst) makes the following remarks, "Soloviev's entire work, and his faith were the outcome of three visions of what he called the Eternal Lady, Friend. They were clearly visions of the Mother of God. What she wants for the world, and which might come from the conversion first of Russia, with its long history of deep devotion to the Mother of God. This wish is for unity in One Faith, a unity that Soloviev names "Vseedinstvo" - "All-unity" in Russian. It is this union in the body of Christ which we can all seek to further in our Russian Apostolate."
After a year's novitiate, circa 1913, the Abrikosovs went to Rome to make religious professions. There Pope Pius X bestowed a special blessing on their apostolate to their fellow Russians. "Though they wished to join the Latin rite....Canon Law allowed them to worship in that rite but they would belong to that of the Byzantine-Slavs" (Nichols 164).
Anna clandestinely taught catechism classes, and worked in kindergartens. She established her home in Moscow as a haven for worshippers, and became known as Moscow's Sister Catherine of Siena. On the feast of St. Dominic, 1917, the lady of the house became Mother Ekaterina Sienkaya, with her erstwhile fellow-tertiaries now her religious subjects. She would have a fully-fledged conventual priory of Dominican women, devoted to the intellectual apostolate, in the setting of a Byzantine liturgical life in the Russian tradition" (Nichols 167)
Vladimir was ordained to the Eastern Rite priesthood by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, the Uniate Metropolitan of Lvov, on May 29, 1917. Though Eastern Rite priests can marry, the Abrikosov couple had vowed to live in celibacy.
"Catherine's letters to Vladimir in future years, however, reveal that much true love endured in their relationship to the end. And so far as we know, Mother Ekaterina Sienskaya is the last Dominican sister of the Third Order Regular in Russia. However, we do know that she wore the Dominican habit and carried in a darkening land the torch of truth. In March 1936, Mother Ekaterina died of cancer in a prison camp. Her body was cremated on July 27, 1936" (Swift 29-30).
"It is a Christian truth of wide application that out of suffering, born in an evangelical spirit, does the desert bloom. The suffering which both purified and warmed Mother Ekaterina's heart may also provide a valuable education of feeling for those involved in the ecumenical task today" (Nichols 171).