New American Saint ROUNDUP

Just found a few more things on St. Barnabas of Indiana – that is to say, St. Varnava of Hvosno, Kosovo — Bishop, Confessor, Martyr under the Communists, the first glorified (i.e., “canonized”) American-born Serbian Orthodox Saint — so I thought I’d put them all together here.

I think I’m drawn to him not only because he’s American, and recent, but because he was crippled in an accident at 35: I was crippled on the job at 36 (though not as badly as he). Also, I lived in Indiana for 6 years, in the north for one-and-a-half years fulltime and another half parttime.

  • This is the piece I’ve already posted, the lead story in the September 2005 Clergy Messenger (PDF) from the Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada…a biographical sketch with local color by perhaps his first biographer, a priestmonk-son of St. Varnava’s home parish of St. Sava, first located in Gary, Ind., and now in nearby Merrillville (which, BTW, with 11 parishes in its immediate vicinity, seems to be a virtual Orthodox metropolis…in the colloquial sense, and perhaps someday in the ecclesiastical sense!!). Now for the newer stuff:
  • In November Bishop LONGIN of the Serbian New Gracanica Diocese of the U.S. and Canada (part of the united Serbian jurisdiction here now) blessed new icon-frescoes at St. Sava’s, including one of St. Varnava. The whole story in the SOC’s The Path of Orthodoxy monthly (PDF: scroll down to page 4) included remarks by Fr. Biographer and a color photo of the Bishop blessing St. Varnava’s new icon.
  • A local secular newspaper reporter took an interesting human-interest angle to the story (now seemingly only available in Google’s cache, and who knows for how long?) (also may remain available here), speaking with parishioners who knew Varnava as well as St. Nikolai of South Canaan, and including eight(!) color photos of their own from the service and church interior, the best IMHO being this one of the blessing of the Varnava icon – the others are available via the text links above the photo. (Funny, they want to sell us prints and souvenirs of their pictures – T-shirts? Luggage tags?! – but no computer-saveable fullsize images. Go figure.)
  • The Path article references St. Varnava’s “treason” trial in Communist Yugoslavia in 1948, including his astounding testimony

    saying that all those who do not recognize those three combined letters G-O-D are illiterate. When he was asked if he was claiming that Comrade Tito himself was illiterate he responded, “Yes, he is, and all others who refuse to recognize these combined letters G-O-D. They are illiterate.”

    As Father mentioned, Time magazine incorporated more bits from Varnava’s trial, which I will quote here to save you the trouble (it was basically a very long editorial laying-out the chess-pieces for the Cold War, even recommending that Washington threaten ‘hot’ war in Western [sic] Europe to prevent Eurocommunist election victories!!):

    The bishop, Varnava Nastich, was born 36 [sic] years ago in Gary (Ind.). In the nine [sic] years he lived there before going to Serbia, whence his parents had come, he breathed in the spirit of freedom along with Gary’s stench and soot. In Serbia, Nastich worked against Tito’s Communists and was brought to trial despite his position in the Orthodox Church, which the Communists cuddle [sic!]. Here is part of his interrogation by three half-literate Montenegrin judges:
    Q. What do you have to say?
    A. All your accusations are inventions and false. I tell you, I am not afraid. You may kill me, but that is not important. The Serbian people are against you and all the civilized world despises you. You have already lost the war.
    (The courtroom cheered the prisoner.{!!})
    Q. You are reported to have said that the regime in Yugoslavia is atheistic, that violence and crime have the upper hand and there is urgent need for action to remove the tyranny. Did you speak in this manner?
    A. Yes, and more than that. I have spoken what all the people are speaking, feeling and desiring.
    Q. Do you believe that Americans will come to overthrow the present regime?
    A. I believe that quite positively. And I know that our people will meet the Americans with cheers as a liberating army.
    Q. Did you speak to the farmers that they will be better off when the Americans come?
    A. In substance I did say that to them. And the same I say to you here and now.
    In a long question the bishop was charged with being in contact with anti-Tito Chetniks in the hills of Praca and Rogatica.
    A. Not a word will I say about those brave men in the free hills who are ready every moment to lay down their lives for their ideals and those of their people.
    (The approving uproar was so great that the judges ordered the courtroom cleared.)
    The prosecutor produced a letter, purportedly written by the bishop, in which it was stated that 1,300,000 Serbs had become innocent victims of the hammer & sickle [sic].
    Q. Did you write this letter, and do you think this statement is true?
    A. With my own hand I wrote it. The only thing that might be incorrect in that statement is the number of victims. For, since I wrote that letter, you have killed very many more people. Therefore, I say, only the number might be incorrect.{!!!}
    In the end the bishop’s legs were manacled, and, clanking his new chains, he was taken off to eleven years of labor in the prison ironworks of Zenica.

    (Though after the Church retired him after those legs were destroyed in a 1949 prison-transport train wreck, Varnava was released from behind bars in 1951, eight years early – though he always remained under government surveillance, and “died suddenly,” some say poisoned, on November 12, 1964, aged just 50.)

  • Here is a page just starting out, for web and print resources concerning Varnava. That St. Vladimir’s Seminary thesis seems to be the basis for Fr. Biographer’s work on him (I mean, it’s HIS thesis); I saw it supposedly on sale here near the bottom of the page, alphabetical by title (“Bishop”), but I can’t vouch for that site; you might also borrow it via Interlibrary Loan maybe?, or contact St. Vlad’s and ask them how else you can look at it. I don’t know if it’d be available through those Master’s and Doctoral Thesis stockers/publishers in Ann Arbor, Michigan (“UMI”??)….
  • ICON OF ST. VARNAVA here (PDF) from the top of this post, on the replicated cover of a book about him being translated into English, authored by a priest who spent some time incarcerated in Varnava’s prison cell in the ’80s. (NB: It might be better to translate it “Holy Confessor Varnava etc.,” or “St. Varnava, Confessor, Bishop of Hvosno”: “St. Confessor” doesn’t work in English because we have two different words – the noun saint from French, and the adjective holy from Germanic – where most languages only have one for both, a substantive adjective. That’s what’s wrong also with “St. Savior” you sometimes hear even from perfectly English-speaking Western sources, or “St. Sophia” when referring to “Holy Wisdom,” e.g., the former cathedral in Istanbul, as opposed to St. Sophia, the martyr of Rome and mother of Holy Martyrs Faith, Hope, and Charity.)

St. Barnabas of Indiana, pray for us all, your poor children, your fellow Americans and your fellow Yugoslavians, to Christ Our God, that He might heal and save us all, and grant to our souls great Mercy!

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  1. Lajoie

    Does anyone have, or know someone who has, any liturgical texts in English or French for St. Branabas of Indiana or Hvosno? If so please forward to email address above.

  2. Leo Peter O'Filon

    Greetings, Lajoie — Christ is in our midst!

    Thanks for visiting.

    According to the English translation of a recent biography, The Holy Confessor Varnava, Bishop of Hvostno [sic], by Protopresbyter-Stavrophoros Savo B. Jovic, here are his Troparion and Kontakion:

    Troparion, Tone 8
    Great suffering out of love toward the Lord you bore, Holy Confessor Varnava (Barnabas) and a martyr’s wreath from Him you did receive, becoming worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, with all the saints of our generation, pray for us to the Lord, that He may save His children.

    Kontakion, Tone 4
    Holy Varnava (Barnabas), consoler of the reasonable flock, you comforted all and now are the hope, that through your prayers Christ will receive us under His wing where you also abide, in the glory of the Unending Day. O, help us, Bishop by your prayers.

    Hope this helps!




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