JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
|The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.
Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.
July 15 is Saint Vladimir's Day.
Saint Vladimir is not quite as well-known as other saints, like Saint Valentine, Saint Patrick or Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus).
Vladimir ruled Russia from about 980 until 1014; understandably many Americans probably are not familiar with him.
He is a saint because he is credited with bringing Christianity to Russia.
His own spiritual journey is more involved than becoming a saint for bringing Christianity to Russia would indicate.
He was not a Christian as a young man. On the contrary, he began his rule known for barbarism and immorality.
Around age 30, he became interested in spirituality and religion.
In 987, he sent envoys across the known world to learn about religions and bring back a report.
One religion forbade the consumption of alcohol and Vladimir proclaimed that "drinking was the joy of Russia" and his people, the Kievan Rus, could not go without this pleasure.
The religion that forbade alcohol was eliminated.
Some religions did not allow the consumption of pork, and that was also unacceptable to Vladimir.
He was attracted to the religious worship of the capitol of Byzantium, Constantinople - Orthodox Christianity.
He saw political advantages - and military advantages - in forming an alliance with Constantinople. He also fell in love with a Byzantine princess, Anna.
However, it was unheard of for a Byzantine princess to marry a barbarian.
So Vladimir converted to Christianity, married Anna, and invited Christian missionaries into Kiev, Russia.
For his efforts in spreading the Orthodox faith, eventually he was canonized a saint.
This story brings up the serious question of why Vladimir really chose Christianity, and why he Christianized Russia.
His religious decision may have been influenced by politics.
His faith may have been inspired by the types of worship he heard about from his envoys.
Or he may have chosen this particular spiritual path because of the person he wanted to marry.
If his choice of faith was the last one, it would not be the last time someone found their way to faith because of a romantic relationship.
Perhaps Vladimir's faith journey involved all of those factors and many more events long lost to history.
In the 21st century, people choose their spiritual paths because of what seems to be politically correct, the reports of others, prohibitions or permissions for eating or drinking, or because of relationships.
The religious and spiritual marketplace today offers far more options than the religious marketplace of the 10th century.
Today there are still the religions Vladimir encountered.
There are also Eastern religions he didn't know about, new religious movements clamoring for followers, atheist and agnostic movements, and science itself asking for people's faith.
In what or whom do you place your faith? What does spirituality look like for you?
For many people, faith, spirituality, and religion are significant factors in their resiliency.
One's spirituality helps provide meaning and purpose in life; it often helps offer hope.
Spirituality helps people envision a better future - sometimes a better eternal future.
Spirituality, faith and religion help people cope with current discouragement and current difficulties because through faith people see positive outcomes.
Know why you have the faith - if any - you have.
Know what your spirituality is, and what it means to you. However you came to it, know it and own it.
Practice the disciplines of your faith and spirituality, whatever they may be, to continue to build your resiliency.