Spirituality for Today – July 2010 – Volume 14, Issue 12

Saint of the Month
Saint Olga, July 11

In 882, when Norsemen conquered Kiev, the Christian Community in the city was destroyed and Prince Igor became the ruler of the new Russian kingdom. He and his wife Olga, also known as Helga, were both pagans. Then in 945, Igor was assassinated and Olga became the ruler. Filled with bitterness, she had his murderers and their comrades killed.

An image of Saint OlgaSt. Olga

Princes Olga knew that it was in her country's best interest to develop a good relationship with the Byzantines, a group that became estranged when Igor attacked Constantinople in 941. Around 954 the princess converted to Christianity. Just three y ears later, the Byzantine emperor welcomed Olga in Constantinople, and she was baptized and took the name of Helena.

Tradition holds that when Olga returned to her homeland, she tried to introduce Christianity to her people. In 959, she requested help from Otto the Great, asking him to send missionaries to educate and train her people in the faith. But by the time the missionaries, led by Adalbert of Magdeburg, arrived in 961, Olga's son Svyatoslav, who was a pagan, had taken control of the kingdom and many of the missionaries were killed.

Olga continued her missionary efforts after she retired. She had a number of churches built, including one in Kiev. Upon her death in 969, Svyatoslav, respecting is mother's faith, gave her a Christian burial.

Although she had been unable to Christianize her kingdom, Olga hand planted the seeds. Her grandson Vladimir would one day fulfill her wishes.

O God,
Who didst call Thy servants Olga and her grandson Vladimir
to an earthly throne that they might advance Thy Heavenly kingdom,
and didst give them zeal for Thy Church and love for Thy people:
Mercifully grant that we who commemorate them this day
may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown
of Thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives