East Meets West in Indianapolis

Indiana is nicknamed “The Crossroads of the United States.”  Several major interstate highways criss-cross the state connecting Indiana with the rest of America.  It’s also a place where ‘the West met the East as the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was processed through the streets of Indianapolis from the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul to Joy of All Who Sorrows Orthodox Christian Church in a wonderful display of Christian and pro-life unity.

Rain threatened to cancel the procession, but almost as if Our Lady was expressing her approval from heaven, the weather cleared and the sun shone just as the procession from the Catholic Cathedral met Father Stevan Bauman and the waiting delegation from the Orthodox Church. Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Christian Church is in communion with the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church.

The procession was a beautiful way to express our common love for the Blessed Mother and our desire to work together to bring about a renewed respect for human life.  On entering the church Fr. Stevan began to chant the beautiful Akathist Hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The church choir accompanying him sang music that was particularly rich and harmonious.  It seemed to have a mystical quality to it.

Saint John Paul II longed for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.   He expressed it as a desire that the Church would breathe with both lungs - East and West in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint,  which means “That they may be one” from Christ’s prayer for the unity of his disciples at the Last Supper. (John 17,21). 

Appreciation for and the veneration of icons can help achieve that longed-for unity.  Many Christians in the West are not familiar with icons, so it is important to explain what an icon is.  Fr. West often mentions that icons are windows into heaven that make visible the invisible world.  Both Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic churches feature many icons in their interiors, displaying Our Lord Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and various saints.  Eastern Christians liken the display of icons to a family photo album.

Icons are a prominent way that Eastern Christians communicate the faith and pray.  As with the icon upon which the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life, icons are often dedicated for different purposes.  For instance, Our Lady of Czestochowa is venerated in Russia as a Patroness of those who want to bring about a restoration of family life. 

The life of an icon is said to begin when it is blessed by a priest.  The pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was blessed by the Archbishop of Czestochowa and touched to the original.  Also, the more people who venerate an icon the greater it is raised in the esteem in the eyes of the people, so the fact that Our Lady’s pilgrim icon has traveled from the Pacific shores of Russia, across the Asian continent through Europe to the Atlantic shores of Portugal is drawing many more people to our events at Polish and Eastern Christian sites.  The icon has visited 27 countries and 28 states in The US. It is estimated that as many as a five million people have venerated Our Lady in the pilgrim icon since its blessing two years ago.

The Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa has brought people together from East and West.  Unity among Christians helps us give a common witness for the promotion of the Gospel which is the Gospel of Life. Saint John Paul II, the Polish Pope, said in his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae  “The Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.”

Father Bryan Eyman, the pastor of St. Athanasius the Great Byzantine Catholic Church, was our  very gracious host for the four nights we stayed in Indianapolis.  It was interesting to listen to him explain the history of the Churches in the East and their liturgies.  Fr. Bryan is also a very committed pro-lifer, and Fr. West and he have known each other for years.  He is not afraid to confront evil and preach the Gospel of Life with passion. The first event in Indianapolis on Wednesday  April 23rd was the chanting of the Akathist Hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Athanasius the Great.  For many Roman Catholics who attended, it was the first time that they had ever heard the Akathist.  After the service, Fr. Bryan invited everyone to come to the church hall for food and fellowship.

The Black Madonna visited St. Luke the Evangelist Church where Fr. West offered Mass and preached.  A pro-life Holy Hour was held at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, where Fr. West spoke about the importance of devotion to Our Lady, the unity of Christians and the importance of proclaiming and defending the sanctity of human life.

In addition to the liturgical celebrations and talks about the Black Madonna, the Black Madonna travelled to two locations for prayer vigils to end abortion.  One place was deceptively called the Clinic for Women.  A clinic is a place where people get well, but the procedures performed at abortion “clinics” always leave at least one dead and one wounded.  The other abortion mill was Planned Parenthood.  This title is also deceptive: the organization is about brutally stopping parenthood, planned or otherwise.

After praying at the abortion mill, we walked a short distance and held a special memorial for a  a young man who was recently killed nearby.   Nathan Trapuzzano was out exercising when he was robbed and fatally shot.  Recently married, Nathan was also a father to one newborn before his untimely death.  Nathan often prayed outside the “Clinic for Women” and attempted to dissuade women from abortion.  May God grant Nathan the reward of his labors and watch over his wife and family, and all who mourn his loss.

Eric Slaughter, head of the local chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, was generous and indispensable for Our Lady’s visit to Indianapolis.  Eric planned and was present at many of the events in Indianapolis.  We thank Eric for making the visit of the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa to Indianapolis a big success.

Eric arranged a radio interview with MJ Krauter and Kent Blandford for their program “Faith in Action” on Catholic Radio.  If you would like to schedule a radio interview with Fr. West please contact us at BlackMadonna@hli.org.

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