I have so many questions about saints! Why are some saints popular in the Western world and not in our church? Why is Olha a saint when she is famous for so cruelly avenging her husband’s death? Aren’t saints supposed to be holy?
This Sunday is the feastday of kniahynia (princess) Olha, who is a renown saint in Eastern Europe. In our Eastern Catholic Tradition, every person is called to sainthood—which means to walk in the footsteps of Christ. We believe that every person of faith is a saint when they die because they join Christ in heaven. Additionally, the Church recognizes specific individuals as examples to help and inspire our own journey as Christians. The major religions acknowledge those who are most meaningful to them. The Latin Church has developed a process of canonization whereby individuals brought forward by communities must conform to a set of conditions before they are given the official designation of saint. The Byzantine Church has maintained a process of glorification that acknowledges the influence a person has had on their Christian communities. All religious communities have what we might call folk saints—individuals whose example of holiness has a lasting effect on their community. Ultimately, a saint is a regular human being, with weaknesses, sins, and strengths whose memory is preserved for us to look towards and learn from. Each Christian person may find unique gifts from any saint. St Olha was a powerful ruler who was instrumental in the consolidation of Kyivan Rus’ as a political entity. She was the first sovereign to adopt Christianity and her efforts to convert the rest of her people earned her the title “rivna apostoliv”: “Equal to the Apostles.” She protected her son, Sviatoslav from invaders and influenced her grandson, Prince Volodymyr the Great, who converted all of Kyivan Rus to Christianity. Today when russia relentlessly seeks to destroy Ukraine, we can look to St Olha for the strength and resolve to protect our children, our heritage, and our Faith.