Kolbe Report 3/25/23

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

A blessed Feast of the Holy Annunciation!

I am writing to ask for your prayers as my wife and I embark for the Republic of Georgia to visit one of our children who is working there.  Georgia has an amazing Christian culture which has survived all kinds of atrocities and persecutions for 1700 years.  It was also the birthplace of Josef Stalin who attended an Orthodox seminary there.

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia

One of his future communist seminary classmates recalled the role that evolutionism played in the destruction of their faith under the influence of the youthful Stalin:

We youngsters had a passionate thirst for knowledge.  Thus in order to disabuse the minds of our seminary students of the myth that the world was created in six days, we had to acquaint ourselves with the geological origin and age of the earth, and be able to prove them in argument; we had to familiarize ourselves with Darwin's teachings. We were aided in this by books on Galileo and Copernicus and by the fascinating works of Camille Flammarion.  I recall that we read Lyell's "Antiquity of Man" and Darwin's "Descent of Man," the latter in a translation edited by Sechenov. Comrade Stalin read Sechenov's scientific works with great interest.

We gradually proceeded to a study of the development of class society, which led us to the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin. In those days the reading of Marxist literature was punishable as revolutionary activity, where even the name of Darwin was always mentioned with scurrilous abuse.

While acquainting ourselves with social and economic literature, we young people continued to be interested in astronomy, physics and chemistry. We derived great benefit from Ludwig Feuerbach's "Essence of Christianity." Comrade Stalin brought these books to our notice. The first thing we had to do, he would say, was to become atheists. Many of us began to acquire a materialist outlook and to ignore theological subjects.

Our reading in the most diverse branches of science not only helped our young people to escape the bigoted and narrow-minded spirit of the seminary, but also prepared their minds for the reception of Marxist ideas. Every book we read, whether on archaeology, geology, astronomy or primitive civilization, helped to confirm us in the truth of Marxism.

During the Soviet regime the Georgian Orthodox Church was subjected to severe persecution, but it never lacked for heroic martyrs who maintained the Faith in spite of imprisonment, torture and martyrdom. According to a Georgian Orthodox website:

The holy confessor Gabriel (Urgebadze) was born on August 26, 1929. His name in the world was Goderdzi. For a long time, his mother was against her son’s aspiration to monasticism, but towards the end of her life she reconciled herself with his choice, and subsequently she herself took the veil. She also was buried at Samtavro Monastery.

Goderdzi came to believe in God while he was still a child. One time the neighbors were fighting, and one of them said, “You have crucified me like Christ.” The boy began to wonder what “crucified” meant, and Who Christ was. The adults sent the child off to the church, where the church warden advised him to read the Gospel. He saved up his money, bought a Gospel, and in a few years had learned the text practically by heart.

A longing for monasticism arose in him in his youth. Later, the elder would say, “There is no greater heroism than monasticism.” And he proved this by his whole life.

He took monastic vows when he was 26, receiving the name of Gabriel, after St. Gabriel of Mt. Athos, the starets who had walked through the water and brought to shore the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, which had floated to Athos over the sea. Fr. Gabriel especially revered the wonderworking copy of the Iveron Icon kept at Samtavro Monastery.

Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

Fr. Gabriel built a church with several cupolas in the courtyard of his home on Tetri Tskaro Street in Tbilisi. He erected it with his own hands and finished around 1962. Fr. Gabriel found the icons for this church at the town dumps, where in those atheistic times people brought and threw out, along with the trash, a large number of sacred objects. Sometimes he wandered around the dumps days on end. He had a small studio where he cleaned the icons and gave them frames and settings of various materials. The walls of his church were covered with icons. He even framed photographs and pictures of icons from secular magazines.

On May 1, 1965, during a demonstration, Hieromonk Gabriel burned a 12-meter portrait of Lenin which hung on the building which housed the Supreme Council of the Georgian SSR, and he began to preach about Christ to the people who were gathered there. He was severely beaten for this and put into a solitary confinement cell at the Georgian KGB. At the interrogation Fr. Gabriel said that he did it because “it is forbidden to treat a man like God. The Crucifixion of Christ ought to hang where the portrait of Lenin was. And you need to write, “Glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.” In August 1965 Fr. Gabriel was put into a psychiatric hospital for an examination. There he was diagnosed as insane: “A psychopathic individual who believes in God and angels.”  . . . But after that even more horrible things happened to him. In order to please the authorities, the hierarchs of the Church did not allow him to come into the church and did not let him into the services—they drove him away. Batiushka did not have the possibility of receiving Holy Communion, which he wanted with all his heart. He could go several days without food, could go a long time without sleep, but he could not live without the Church. And the starets often cried out of powerlessness, opening his soul to his sisters.

Fr. Gabriel of Georgia

Fr. Gabriel settled in Samtavro in the 1980’s, and in the latter years he lived in a round tower. For a while, the nuns wondered at Batiushka’s eccentricities . . . At first it seemed strange to them that for some time he lived in the hen house, where there were large chinks in the walls, and that in the winter he went barefoot….

During Holy Week the sound of continuous weeping could be heard coming from his cell. While he was praying, some people saw him rise 15–20 inches off the ground and saw light coming from him. The faithful revered Fr. Gabriel as a great ascetic and they would come to him as to a living saint. When the starets would receive a large number of guests, he would always see to it that “the professor”—that is what he call red wine—was on the table. He would generously treat his guests, while he himself ate almost nothing. Father used to say that you have to be nourished with Divine love, and not just on food.

Otar Nikolaishvili was Batiushka's spiritual child and often spent time in his cell. Once Fr. Gabriel unexpectedly said to him that they had to go right then and there to the Monastery of St. Anthony Martkopsky—that it was urgent. Otar didn't know what to say: his car wasn't working right, he was having problems with it. Batiushka insisted, and somehow they started out. Then the road began to go up a mountain, and the automobile began to cough and sputter, but the starets suddenly said, "Don't worry, son—St. Anthony Martkopsky himself is sitting in the back seat—but don't you turn around." And the car suddenly tore off ahead so fast that the driver had to step on the brakes. As soon as they drove in through the monastery gates, the engine cut out on the spot. Just at that time, several armed people came in there looking for trouble. The starets stepped out in front and said, "Shoot me." This embarrassed and sobered the bandits, and they left the monastery.

According to the elder's will, his body was wrapped in a mat and given over to the earth in the place where St. Nina had labored. Fr. Gabriel died on November 2, 1995, of edema. He suffered terribly from the pains, but never showed it.

A countless number of healings began to occur at his grave after his death. All Georgia deeply venerates the elder.

St. Nina, Enlightener of Georgia (280-332)

You will not be surprised to learn that Fr. Gabriel had a special relationship with the monastery of Fr. Seraphim Rose, the great defender of the patristic reading of Genesis, in Platina, California, and received a visit from one of the Platina monks before he died.  In God’s wonderful providence, I have been invited to give two Kolbe presentations in a Catholic parish in Tbilisi, and I have been informed that the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church is going to send representatives to attend my first presentation.  The Patriarch is a firm believer in the fundamental importance of the traditional Christian doctrine of creation and that young people must be shown that sound natural science harmonizes perfectly with the traditional reading of Genesis.

I look forward to the day when Our Lady of Fatima’s requests will be completely fulfilled and all of the Orthodox Churches will return to full communion with the Catholic Church under the universal fatherhood of the Pope.  I hope and pray that in the era of peace, when there is once again “one flock and one shepherd,” Fr. Gabriel will be commemorated as a saint by all Christians, just as saints honored by Eastern Catholic Churches before their reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church were allowed to be placed on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church after their return to full communion.  The globalists are trying to de-stabilize the government of Georgia and to introduce sexual immorality and perversion into Georgia which the majority of the people as well as their civil and religious leaders deeply abhor.  Please pray that Our Lord and Our Lady will protect Georgia from the machinations of the satanic forces, grant success to our efforts in that country, and hasten the return of the Orthodox to full communion with the Catholic Church.

Yours in Christ through the Holy Theotokos in union with St. Joseph,

Hugh Owen

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