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Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Saint Vladimir of Russia. Our 35th Great Grandfather.

An Icon of St. Vladimir of Russia. Our 35th Great Grandfather. He Brought
Christianity to the Slavs. He began the Conversion of Russia from Paganism to Christ.

Dear Family,
Yes, as shocking as it is, Russia’s most holy native Saint is our 35th Great Grandfather. You don't know how relieved I am. At least with one Saint in the family we all have a chance on heaven. My hours of research paid off! Now, according to the Orthodox Church you can print the icon of Grandpa Vladimir, frame it and pray to it. Imagine that, having a Russian Saint in your home that just happens to be one of your great grandfathers.

Now, a few things about St. Vladimir. One of the largest cathedrals in Kiev Russia is named after him. The University of Kiev was named after him. There is the Russian Order of St. Vladmir and Sait Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in the United States. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the feast day of St. Vladimir on July 15th.

Vladimir was born in 958 A.D. and was the youngest son of Sviatoslav I of Kiev and his housekeeper Malusha, who was described in the Norse Sagas as a prophetess who lived to the age of 100 and was brought from her cave to the palace to predict the future.

Vladimir was a warrior King and conquered many lands for Russia. Vladimir had remained a pagan, perhaps taking eight hundred concubines and numerous wives and erecting pagan statues and shrines to multiple gods. Although Christianity in Kiev existed before Bladimir’s time, he remained a pagan. It is said he took part in rites involving human sacrifice.

A Statue of our Great Grandfather overlooking the Dniepier River, Russia

His Conversion to Christianity

In 983, after another of his military successes, Prince Vladimir and his army thought it necessary to sacrifice human lives to the gods. A lot was cast and it fell on a youth, Ioann by name, the son of a Christian, Fyodor. His father stood firmly against his son being sacrificed to the idols. More than that, he tried to show the pagans the futility of their faith: ‘Your gods are just plain wood: it is here now but it may rot into oblivion tomorrow; your gods neither eat, nor drink, nor talk and are made by human hand from wood; whereas there is only one God — He is worshipped by Greeks and He created heaven and earth; and your gods? They have created nothing, for they have been created themselves; never will I give my son to the devils!’”

An open abuse of the deities, to which most Russians bowed in reverence in those times, triggered widespread anger. Rampant crowds killed the Christian Fyodor and his son Ioann (later, after the overall christening of Russia, people came to regard these two as the first Christian martyrs in Russia and the Orthodox Church set a day to commemorate them, July 25th).
Immediately after the murder of Fyodor and Ioann, early medieval Russia saw persecutions against Christians, many of whom escaped or concealed their belief. However, our grandfather, Prince Vladimir, was troubled over the incident. The chronicles have it that different preachers came to the Prince, each offering a particular faith. Vladimir spoke to Muslims, Catholics, and Jews, but for different reasons rejected all the religions. Finally, a Greek philosopher told the prince of the Old and New Testaments and presented him with a canvas depicting Doomsday. When he learned of the fate of the unrepentant were in for, Prince Vladimir was benumbed by terror and after a short pause said with a sigh: “Blessed are the doers of good and damned are the evil doers!”

Another Statue of Great Grandfather Vladimir in London

Vladimir settled on Christianity. Vladimir was baptized at Cherson, taking the Christian name of Basil. Upon returning to Kiev he destroyed pagan monuments and established many churches, starting with the splendid Church of the Tithes.
Vladimir took it upon himself to convert his subjects to Christianity. In 996 he erected the large Church of St. Mary ever Virgin. In 996 he built the Church of the Transfiguration, both in Kiev. He gave up was and established schools, introduced courts.
The conversion of Russia was not, of course, an immediate success. It took several decades before Christianity struck roots in Russia firmly and definitely.
Vladimir I completed unification of all eastern Slavs in his realm, secured its frontiers against foreign invasions, and - by accepting Christianity - brought Russia into the community of Christian nations and their civilization. He was remembered and celebrated in numerous legends and songs as a great national hero and ruler, a "Sun Prince." Venerated as the baptizer of Russia, "equal to Apostles," he was canonized about the middle of the 13th century.