Throughout March, we have been introduced to women who were bold enough to follow God where he called them, regardless of the attitudes of the prevailing culture. We’ve found out that bold women of God have been proclaiming God’s message all along, their stories have just been covered up. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we will take a look at a woman who courageously followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit in troubling times.
Ludmila Javorova’s story takes place in the Moravian city of Brno, Czechoslovakia. She was born in 1932. Javorova always felt a call to the religious life. She had wondered why her brothers, and not she, were allowed to play priest in her younger years. God was working in her life in amazing ways since birth, but we are going to catch up with her in the winter of 1970.
First, a word about religion in Czechoslovakia during the 1970s. The Communist state viewed religion with suspicion, and wanted churches and clergy to be more loyal to the government than their faith. Religious issues could not be brought into public life. Secret police could be listening in at any moment, and if a sermon was preached that spoke ill of the government, that preacher would quickly be gotten rid of. The Catholic Church in which Javorova found herself was especially targeted during this time. Because clergy could not get state approval to minister, the church was forced to go underground.
It was in the midst of these desperate times that we find Javorova. Her bishop, Felix Maria Davidek, was in charge of the underground church. He wanted to see the church thrive, but he was also keenly aware of the opposition. So, he started the Koinotes society, which was designed to keep the church functioning, albeit secretly, in the midst of a totalitarian regime.
While trying to manage an oppressed church, Davidek sensed that the time they were living in was not ordinary—it was kairos time, God’s time. Javorova was ready to serve God and the Church, and she and Davidek felt that the Holy Spirit was confirming that she be ordained a priest. So, on December 28, 1970 in Bishop Davidek’s house, she received her ordination and became a Catholic priest. Reflecting on her ordination, she said, “I guess one might say that some things are done on another level of being, one that is too deep, too transparent for words” (Out of the Depths, p. 126). During those dark days of oppression and persecution, Javorova celebrated the Mass secretly, and visited women in prison who wished to receive the sacraments. She served as she could, even though she had to keep her ordination a secret from most people. Later, the Pope declared her ordination illegitimate, but who can guess the status of the Czechoslovakian church if she had not followed the Holy Spirit’s leading?
Javorova’s life is certainly reminiscent of Esther, a woman called upon by God to serve “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Javorova’s story shows us that God’s call cannot be confined by societal expectations. Even though Javorova lived during a harsh time, she may very well have never been ordained if not for the burdensome time in which she lived. God makes use of his servants, and even difficult situations, if we are bold enough to accept God’s call.